Greatest Films of the 2010s
Greatest Films of the 2010s


Greatest Films of the 2010s
2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019

2016

Academy Awards for 2016 Films
Title Screen Film Genre(s), Title, Year, (Country), Length, Director, Description

Arrival (2016), 116 minutes, D. Denis Villeneuve
This thoughtful, suspenseful, and transcendent sci-fi tale was based upon Ted Chiang's 1998 short story "Story of Your Life" - an exploration of communication with extra-terrestrial life on Earth. The central characters were US Army linguist Louise Banks (Amy Adams) and theoretical physicist Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner) who were hired by US Army Colonel Weber (Forest Whitaker) after news of the alien 'invasion.' Their task was to examine and investigate one of twelve extra-terrestrial spacecraft that were spread out over the entire world. In Montana, the two came into contact inside a space-ship with two cephalopod-like, seven-limbed aliens ('heptapods') that were nicknamed Abbott & Costello. They sought to translate the strange, palindromic-scripted alien language in order to communicate with them. Throughout the film, Louise was haunted by the memory of the recent and early death of her 12 year-old daughter Hannah. Forces seeking war with the aliens (considering them a threat) were in competition with Louise and Donnelly who discovered that each of the 12 spacecraft had part of a message-puzzle. Ultimately, the aliens were revealed to have brought a new "weapon" (re-translated as "tool") - or language that would allow humans to have an entirely different perception of time. Those who learned the alien language would be able to experience "memories" of future events, and also the past. For Louise, that meant that her visions of Hannah were premonitions of her future birth, after being fathered by Donnelly.

Captain America: Civil War (2016), 147 minutes, D: Anthony and Joe Russo
The 13th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), and the second sequel following Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) and Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014). The film opened with the crew of Avengers (led by Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans)) in conflict with heavily armed mercenaries in Lagos, Nigeria - resulting in some Wakandan civilian casualties. When the group returned home, Tony Stark / Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.) brought together Natasha Romanoff / Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), James "Rhodey" Rhodes / War Machine (Don Cheadle), Sam Wilson / Falcon (Anthony Mackie), Vision (Paul Bettany), and Wanda Maximoff / Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) to sign an international accord. The US Secretary of State (Thaddeus "Thunderbolt" Ross (William Hurt)) and a global task force, through the United Nations' Sokovia Accords, would be assigned the power to limit the Avengers' authority through oversight. Although some agreed with Stark about international oversight and bureaucratic accountability regarding their activities, Captain America vehemently disagreed ideologically - and a split between the two factions became evident. An all-out crisis developed when King T'Chaka of Wakanda was killed in a Vienna bombing where the Accords were to be signed. It was suspected that Captain America's old friend Bucky Barnes / the Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan) was responsible for the explosion. The King's son Prince T'Challa (Chadwick Boseman), believed it was his duty to seek vengeance and became the Black Panther. A "civil war" broke out when Captain America refused to rush to judgment and protected Barnes. New allies took sides, including Scott Lang / Ant Man (Paul Rudd) and teenaged Peter Parker / Spider-Man (Tom Holland). The real Vienna bomber was revealed to be international terrorist Helmut Zemo (Daniel Brühl) who had framed Barnes through brainwashing.

Deadpool (2016), 108 minutes, D: Tim Miller
This fast-paced, action superhero origin story and comedy, in contrast to other Marvel superhero sagas, was bloodier, more violent, more vulgar and sexier. It was considered the 8th film in the X-Men film franchise. Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds), a foul-mouthed, fast-talking, witty ex-Special Ops officer and jokester, hired himself out as a mercenary killer. He entered into a romantic relationship with ex-prostitute Vanessa (Morena Baccarin) and she became his fiancee. After a diagnosis of incurable metastatic cancer, Wade accepted an offer to be cured of the cancer by artificially-mutated experimenter Francis Freeman / Ajax (Ed Skrein), with an injection of a serum in order to awaken his latent mutant genes. However, Wade's skin was burned, disfigured and scarred during the torturous process in a hyperbaric chamber, although he acquired super-healing abilities. He was forced to reinvent himself as the costumed, masked antihero vigilante "Deadpool" to seek revenge, and also to rescue his beloved Vanessa from Ajax's kidnapping.

Don't Breathe (2016), 88 minutes, D: Fede Alvarez
In this intense, anxiety-producing and suspenseful home invasion horror-thriller, three desperate Detroit, MI juvenile delinquent friends: social-outcast Money (Daniel Zovatto), his girlfriend Roxanne "Rocky" (Jane Levy), and clean-cut Alex (Dylan Minnette) were targeting homes in order to burglarize them and then fence off stolen goods for profit. The homes they had selected to ransack were those that had security systems installed by Alex's father, so that they could easily acquire keys and codes. Money suggested that they break into a house in a remote and abandoned neighborhood owned by a blind, elderly, reclusive Gulf War veteran named Norman Nordstrom (Stephen Lang) who was rumored to have a large stash of cash of $300,000 (from a legal settlement involving a car accident and the death of his daughter). Once they subdued the owner's vicious rottweiler dog, they broke through the various locks and security devices and entered the house, but were unable to sedate the Blind Man (with heightened senses) with a sleeping gas bottle placed in his bedroom. Before long, he turned the tables on them in the claustrophobic house, ushering in instances of unexpected violence, murder and mayhem. Part of the back story of the 'victim' in an unusual plot twist revealed that Norman had kidnapped, gagged and imprisoned Cindy Roberts (Franciska Törőcsik), the wealthy woman who was the driver that had allegedly killed his daughter in the car accident - so that she could be impregnated to provide him with a 'replacement' for his daughter. When Cindy was accidentally killed during a struggle, he intended to then make Rocky his next child-provider, but she was able to overcome him as the 'sole survivor.'

The Edge of Seventeen (2016), 104 minutes, D: Kelly Fremon Craig
This poignant, often-edgy, coming-of-age teen romantic drama/comedy, set in Portland, OR, followed the growing-up travails of 17 year-old Nadine (Hailee Steinfeld) - a precocious, awkward, anxious, and self-absorbed but strong-minded high school junior living in the suburbs. Four years before the present time, she had lost her father Tom (due to a heart attack) and was still grieving, along with her now-single mother Mona (Kyra Sedgwick). She became horrified when her popular, athletic, impossibly-perfect older brother Darian (Blake Jenner) began dating her best (and only) childhood friend Krista (Hailey Lu Richardson). Their hook-up caused her to feel desperately alone, fragile, unsure and inferior, and after ending her friendship with Krista, she turned to others to support her including her teacher Mr. Max Bruner (Woody Harrelson), and her affable, equally-awkward, nervous, but adoring classmate Erwin Kim (Hayden Szeto) who was secretly in love with her.

Elle (2016, Belg./Fr./Germ.), 130 minutes, D: Paul Verhoeven
Verhoeven's audacious French thriller (with considerable sexual content and violence) was based upon Philippe Djian's 2012 novel "Oh....", about a businesswoman who was raped and beaten in her home by a masked assailant. In the film's opening, video game company CEO Michèle Leblanc (Isabelle Huppert) was sexually assaulted by a ski-masked intruder, but then chose to ignore reporting the attack to police by resuming her life. Meanwhile, she was involved in an affair with Robert (Christian Berkel), the husband of her best friend and business partner Anne Consigny (Anne Consigny), while her semi-estranged son Vincent (Jonas Bloquet) (from her ex-husband Charles Berling (Charles Berling)) was being abused in a horrible relationship with his pregnant girlfriend Josie (Alice Isaaz). She resented her narcissistic mother Irène (Judith Magre), and was the daughter of an infamous mass murderer who would possibly be paroled soon. She chose not to report her own rape to the police, wary of them from previous experiences. There were various suspects whom she thought might be the assailant, including an employee named Kurt (Lucas Prisor). After she found herself stalked and the recipient of text-messages, she was attacked a second time in her home by the assailant - she learned that the obsessed rapist was her neighbor Patrick (Laurent Lafitte). She continued to engage in a dangerous and unhealthy role-playing game with him by consenting to further rape scenarios, until she finally realized that she must report him to the police. As it ended up, during another rape encounter, Vincent defended his mother and killed Patrick, leaving her free to reconcile with family members and associates.

Everybody Wants Some!! (2016), 117 minutes, D: Richard Linklater
Director Richard Linklater's teen sports comedy romp was set in Texas in the fall of 1980. The hilarious, witty and nostalgic film centered around rowdy members of a baseball team at Southeast Texas University that lived together in a makeshift, off-campus frat house. They included freshman pitcher Jake Bradford (Blake Jenner), his southern roommate Billy or "Beuter" Autrey (Will Brittain), the amiable sole black player Dale Douglas (J. Quinton Johnson), Kenny Roper (Ryan Guzman), team captain and pro-prospect Glen McReynolds (Tyler Hoechlin), the talkative and philosophizing Finnegan or "Finn" (Glen Powell), another freshman named Tyrone Plummer (Temple Baker), aggressive transfer student Jay Niles (Juston Street), and pot-smoking Charlie Willoughby (Wyatt Russell). Off the playing field and during the few days before the start of the semester, the competitive, dumb athletic jocks sowed their wild oats by crashing parties and carousing together at a disco club, a country and western bar, a punk rock concert, and at a "costume" party (known as Oz) thrown by theater and dance students, usually drinking lots of beer and seeking good times and sex from the "chicks." Eventually, Jake was able to settle down with pretty, performing-arts student Beverly (Zoey Deutch) despite the non-stop teasing, ribbing, and drinking.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2016, UK/US), 133 minutes, D: David Yates
Based on J.K. Rowling's original story and serving as a prequel to the Harry Potter film franchise, this fantasy adventure film spin-off was set in the magical wizarding world of New York City in 1926 (seven decades later). Extremist No-Majs (a term denoting those unable to use magic, or "no-magic" such as the Muggles) were threatening America's magic users, when British author Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne), a Magi-zoologist and author of a Hogwarts school textbook that catalogued magical creatures, arrived in the city. He was involved in a global study to collect rare magical creatures (or 'fantastic beasts') but unfortunately, once he arrived in Manhattan, some of the magic creatures in his own leather briefcase escaped. The accident occurred because his briefcase was mistakenly switched with a similar case belonging to Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler), a No-Maj cannery factory worker (and aspiring baker). At the same time, the Magical Congress of the United States of America (MACUSA) was investigating a series of dark magical events, including a series of terrorist-like attacks by Gellert Grindelwald (Johnny Depp in a cameo), an infamous dark wizard. The film's plot followed the misadventures of the group to retrieve the missing creatures, by Newt, Jacob, smart Porpentina "Tina" Goldstein (Katherine Waterston), a disgraced or demoted magical law enforcement officer (Auror) from the MACUSA, and Queenie (Alison Sudol), Tina's pretty, mind-reading (legilimens) younger sister and roommate. Meanwhile, Director of Magical Security Percival Graves (Colin Farrell), an evil wizarding Auror official, was tasked with protecting wizards from the dark magic threatening all New Yorkers, and began to target Newt.

Fences (2016), 138 minutes, D: Denzel Washington
Playwright August Wilson's 1983 Pulitzer Prize-winning play was adapted to form the basis for this intensely dramatic film. Director/star Denzel Washington portrayed demanding, self-loathing and overbearing 53 year-old Troy Maxson, a financially-struggling black garbage collector in 1950s Pittsburgh. He was facing a crumbling marriage and family due to his insufferable bitterness and resentment over having played baseball in the Negro Leagues in the late 1930s when the color barrier was yet to be broken (it occurred in 1947), and he was barred from becoming a pro player in MLB. He had also served 15 years in prison and felt stuck in a dead-end working-class job and couldn't make ends meet. His longtime friend and neighbor was Jim Bono (Stephen McKinley Henderson), a co-worker. He and his loyal and devoted wife of 18 years Rose Lee Maxson (Viola Davis) had one son from his current marriage: aspiring football player Cory (Jovan Adepo) who had recently been offered a college scholarship, and another son from a previous relationship - music-minded 34 year-old Lyons (Russell Hornsby). Troy's brain-damaged brother Gabriel (Mykelti Williamson) struggled with daily life due to mental impairment. Troy continually thwarted Cory's chances to succeed in a college football career, and was able to block his son's efforts to attend school. The film's title "Fences" (a metaphor for all of the boundaries built up) referred to the construction of a fence around the family's small backyard that Troy demanded Cory help build. As a result of an affair with Alberta, Troy became a father - increasing tensions with Rose at home. Although Alberta later died in childbirth, Rose agreed to care for the baby Raynell and raise her, but refused to welcome Troy back into her life. Six years later after Troy's death from a heart attack, the family reluctantly came together to say farewell to their flawed and hurtful patriarch.

Finding Dory (2016), 97 minutes, D: Andrew Stanton, Angus MacLane
This was the 2nd highest-grossing (domestic) film of 2016. The 17th Pixar/Disney computer-animated action-adventure fantasy film served as a sequel (or spin-off) to Finding Nemo (2003). Similar in theme, the title character, a blue amnesiac fish named Dory (voice of Ellen DeGeneres), attempted to locate and reunite with her long-lost parents (Jenny (voice of Diane Keaton) and Charlie (voice of Eugene Levy). The childrens'-friendly animation opened a year after the storyline of Finding Nemo, where Dory - suffering from short-term memory issues - lived on the reef with young clown fish Nemo (voice of Hayden Rolence) and his overprotective father Marlin (voice of Albert Brooks). With only fragmented and flashbacked memories of her childhood, including the phrase "the Jewel of Morro Bay, California," she set out to find her home. She was guided on sea currents to California by her friend - sea turtle Crush (voice of Andrew Stanton) and his son Squirt (Bennett Dammann). Along the way, they encountered some problems and predators, including a giant Humboldt squid. Dory was captured by the staff of the Monterey Marine Life Institute, a facility that housed and cared for many injured or disabled sea creatures. In the aquarium, she met many other interesting characters: curmudgeonly red octopus Hank (voice of Ed O'Neill) who was missing one tentacle, her childhood friend Destiny (voice of Kaitlin Olson) - a near-sighted whale shark, and concussion-suffering Bailey (voice of Ty Burrell) - a beluga whale. Outside the Institute, Marlin and Nemo (who had hitched a ride there with a pair of sea lions and a kooky loon named Becky (Gabriel C. Brown)), attempted to rescue Dory. Although Marlin, Nemo, and Hank ended up on a truck bound for a Cleveland aquarium, and the determined Dory had independently found her parents by following a shell trail, Dory (with help from Destiny and Bailey) came to their rescue before all the sea creatures returned safely to their reef.

The Girl on the Train (2016), 112 minutes, D: Tate Taylor
This paranoid, dark and mysterious psychological thriller about domestic violence was based upon British author Paula Hawkins' popular, best-selling 2015 debut novel of the same name. Alcoholic, infertile, unemployed, erratic and bitter recent divorcée Rachel Watson (Emily Blunt), once married to unfaithful husband Tom Watson (Justin Theroux), aimlessly commuted by train every day to New York City - a route that passed through her old neighborhood, and her old house. She was voyeuristically fixated by her ex-husband Tom and his remarriage to Anna Boyd (Rebecca Ferguson) with baby Evie. She also noticed a neighboring couple: Scott (Luke Evans) and Megan Hipwell (Haley Bennett) (a one-time nanny-babysitter for Anna). Soon, Rachel also became obsessed with the lives of the second couple, fantasizing that they had a dream-like idyllic life. Due to unusual circumstances after she saw Megan kissing another strange man (and Rachel was seen bruised and bloody), Rachel became involved in a missing person's investigation involving the wife, and was questioned by suspicious Detective Riley (Allison Janney). It was revealed that Megan was kissing her therapist Dr. Abdic (Edgar Ramírez). Megan's husband Scott was also considered a suspect since he was known to be high-strung, aggressive and abusive. Major revelations were uncovered after Megan was found dead (and pregnant) -- Rachel's former husband Tom had been cheating and having an affair with Megan, and he killed her when she refused to abort his baby. When Tom was confronted, both Anna and Rachel played a role in murdering him, and rightly pleaded self-defense.

Green Room (2016), 95 minutes, D: Jeremy Saulnier
This violent crime thriller told about a financially-struggling punk band that was caught witnessing a murder at a remote club where they were performing in the Pacific Northwest. They were then attacked by the clientele - neo-Nazi skinheads. The touring punk rock band, known as The Ain't Rights, was composed of bass player Pat (Anton Yelchin), female guitarist Sam (Alia Shawkat), drummer Reece (Joe Cole), and singer Tiger (Callum Turner). The down-and-out group were playing their last performance after a failed tour - a replacement gig at a grungy, backwoods Portland, OR club populated by white supremacists. They were met with derision when they unwisely played "Nazi Punks F--K Off" by the Dead Kennedys. As they fled after their set into the club's backstage 'green room,' they came upon the aftermath of the brutal murder of Emily (Taylor Tunes), a young female skinhead (with a pocket knife stuck into her temple). They came face-to-face with the club's owner and the scary-looking leader of the skinheads named Darcy Banker (Patrick Stewart) - Emily's boyfriend. Darcy ordered them to be held hostage, along with the murdered woman's best friend Amber (Imogen Poots). It was feared they would report the brutal killing to authorities, and they would be eliminated. A deadly cat-and-mouse game ensued as the band group tried to escape their confined space, leading to much gore and brutality (with knives, box cutters, machetes, shotguns, and attack dogs) and a high body count.

Hacksaw Ridge (2016, Australia/US), 139 minutes, D: Mel Gibson
This biopic war film was based upon the documentary The Conscientious Objector (2004), telling about the life of Desmond Doss - a 7th Day Adventist and conscientious objector who became a war hero and received a Medal of Honor for his service in World War II. During the war, the American pacifist combat medic Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield), who had enlisted after the Pearl Harbor attack in late 1941, first endured Army basic training under Drill Sergeant Howell (Vince Vaughn) and Captain Jack Glover (Sam Worthington). He was mercilessly ridiculed for his solid, uncompromising stance on the 6th Commandment 'Thou shalt not kill' - and his refusal to train with a weapon or firearm. Ultimately, he was arrested for insubordination and jailed. Charges were dropped and declared unconstitutional during a court-martial trial. Later, Doss proved himself indispensable when deployed to the Pacific Theater, where he courageously saved the lives of 75 soldiers on the battlefields of Okinawa, when his unit was tasked with ascending and securing the Maeda Escarpment ("Hacksaw Ridge").

Hail, Caesar! (2016, UK/US/Jp.), 106 minutes, D: Ethan and Joel Coen
The Coen Brothers' madcap and witty comedy presented a comic look at the Golden Age of Hollywood and the film industry in 1951, when movie studios were known to cover-up any hint of scandal or unfavorable gossip about their stars. They regularly employed 'moral clauses' in their contracts that were often disregarded, evidenced by numerous scandals involving the narcissistic and immoral stars and starlets. The film followed 36 hours in the life of slick Capitol Pictures studio mogul Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin). A major showbiz crisis developed over star actor Baird Whitlock (George Clooney), who was heading up a sword-and-sandal Biblical epic titled "Hail, Caesar! A Tale of the Christ." He was drugged and kidnapped, and the abductors (a group of Communist screenwriters known as The Future holding a 'study group' at a seaside estate) demanded $100,000 in ransom. As the studio's overworked resident fixer, devout Catholic Mannix had already been busy trying to protect the reputation of unmarried, pregnant aquatic ballet actress DeeAnna Moran (Scarlett Johansson) (an Esther Williams-type). Now he was deployed to search for Whitlock while shielding the devastating news from two snoopy, identical-twin gossip columnists Thora Thacker and Thessaly Thacker (both played by Tilda Swinton) - a comic take-off on Hedda Hopper and Louella Parsons.

Hell or High Water (2016), 102 minutes, D: David Mackenzie
This grim, film noirish western heist drama set in rural West Texas during the late 2000s followed the desperate straits of two financially-struggling brothers living on an about-to-be-foreclosed ranch/farm after the economic recession of 2008. Divorced father Toby Howard (Chris Pine) with two sons and high alimony bills, and dim-witted ex-con Tanner Howard (Ben Foster) decided to save their endangered, deceased mother's family ranch by engaging in local bank robberies of branches of the Texas Midlands Bank. They were pursued and tracked down by near-retirement, aging, small-town Texas Ranger Marcus Hamilton (Jeff Bridges) and his stoic deputy partner Alberto Parker (Gil Birmingham). During the brothers' final robbery of a branch bank, a shoot-out led to Tanner killing two individuals, while Toby was wounded in the abdomen. A pursuit of Tanner led to his murder of Parker, who was then shot and killed by Hamilton. Meanwhile, the wounded Toby again successfully laundered the stolen loot at a casino, and took the converted money (in the form of a check made out to the bank) to pay off the family's debt at the bank just in time. He also deeded the ranch into a family trust fund (for his ex-wife and kids) to be managed by the bank. In the aftermath, Toby was cleared and not suspected of participating in the bank robberies, since the bank didn't press continuation of the case, and the farm's oil well was producing more income in a month than was stolen. However, retired Ranger Hamilton knew better and engaged Toby in a non-violent stand-off at the ranch, where Toby explained his motives - to break the cycle of poverty his family had endured.

Jackie (2016, Fr./US/Chile), 100 minutes, D: Pablo Larraín
This dramatic biographical account of First Lady Jacqueline "Jackie" Kennedy was a deeply moving portrait of the stoic political figure. The account was based upon a Life Magazine interview with widowed Jackie conducted by Theodore H. White at the Kennedy family compound in Hyannis Port, MA a week after the assassination in November 1963. The non-linear film was composed of a series of flashbacks delivered by Jackie during an interview with the composite figure of The Journalist (Billy Crudup). The events in the film followed what happened after the Dallas, TX tragedy on November 22nd, 1963, during an open motorcade ride when President John F. Kennedy (Caspar Phillipson) was assassinated next to his wife. During the interview, Jackie (Natalie Portman) reflected upon her hosting of a White House televised tour in 1962 before the topic changed to her immense grief, and the week following the murder. She was involved in making plans for the State funeral (and burial at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia), preparing to preserve JFK's legacy, and taking care of her mourning family members, especially her young children. She was comforted by new President Lyndon B. Johnson (John Carroll Lynch), his wife and new First Lady Claudia "Lady Bird" Johnson (Beth Grant), her life-long close friend and secretary Nancy Tuckerman (Greta Gerwig), Catholic priest (John Hurt), and her brother-in-law - US Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy (Peter Sarsgaard), among others. Some of Jackie's responses to her grief included insomnia, suicidal thoughts, and the use of medications and alcohol.

The Jungle Book (2016, UK/US), 106 minutes, D: Jon Favreau
Walt Disney's live-action and CGI fantasy-adventure, children's-family film was based upon two sources: Rudyard Kipling's original 1894 collection of stories with animal characters, and Disney's own fully-animated The Jungle Book (1967). The principal character in the film was an orphaned human boy named Mowgli (Neel Sethi), raised in the jungles of India by adoptive mother Raksha (Lupita Nyong'o) in a wolf pack led by the patriarchal Akela (Giancarlo Esposito). Although abandoned and a foster child, Mowgli was guided by his guardians, including his main mentor and protector Bagheera (Ben Kingsley), a black panther. One of the enemies of the wolf pack - and particularly of 'man-cub' Mowgli with his human scent, was a threatening and fearsome tiger named Shere Khan (Idris Elba), both fire-scarred and blind in his left eye. When he grow older, Mowgli decided to protect the pack by setting out on a journey of self-discovery in search of a human family, while evading the tiger. Fanciful characters during his adventure included a hypnosis-inducing python named Kaa (Scarlett Johansson), a friendly, protective sloth bear named Baloo (Bill Murray), and an gigantopithecus - or orangutan named King Louie (Christopher Walker).

La La Land (2016), 128 minutes, D: Damien Chazelle
In this refreshing, passionate, magical, and 'classical' 50s-styled musical romance that paid tribute to modern-day Los Angeles (the City of Angels), a financially-stretched LA musician and aspiring actress fell in love while pursuing their separate creative-arts dreams. In the bittersweet tale, struggling actress Mia Dolan (Emma Stone) and jazz pianist Sebastian "Seb" Wilder (Ryan Gosling) both met when she happened to hear him playing a jazz improvisation in Liptons restaurant where he was promptly fired for not playing traditional Christmas music. Their paths crossed again, and they also shared their work environments with each other: Mia's backlot at Warner Bros.' where she worked as a coffee-shop barista and was attending auditions while waiting for her full-time acting big break, and Seb's jazz club and his dream to open his own nightclub someday. In the midst of many failed auditions for Mia and more dates between the two (including attending "Rebel With a Cause" together and visiting Griffith Observatory), the couple inevitably began to live together. The two young star-crossed lovers soon discovered that it was challenging to keep their relationship intact while independently struggling to set up their individual careers that took them in opposite directions.

Lion (2016, Australia), 118 minutes, D: Garth Davis
Saroo Brierley's 2013 non-fictional memoir "A Long Way Home" served as the basis for this emotional, tear-jerking biographical drama. The film's story was set in Khandwa, India (in central Madhya Pradesh) and opened in the year 1986. Impoverished young 5 year-old Saroo (Sunny Pawar as boy) became separated from his older brother Guddu Khan (Abhishek Bharate) when he boarded a freight train that took him more than 1,000 miles away from his hometown, to the big city of Calcutta. Bengalese was spoken in the new location, so no one understood his desire to return to his hometown of "Ganestalay," and he didn't know his last name. Avoiding becoming a street beggar or victim of human traffickers, he entered an orphanage before being adopted by a loving Australian couple: Sue and John Brierley (Nicole Kidman and David Wenham) who lived in Hobart, Tasmania. Almost 25 years later, with persevering thoughts of his birth family, Saroo Brierley (Dev Patel as adult) used Google Earth to help narrow down the location of his hometown (and the train station that he knew so well). During his fixated search, he neglected his adoptive family and his devoted American classmate/girlfriend Lucy (Rooney Mara). In the tear-jerking conclusion, he was ultimately successful in finding his long-lost biological mother Kamla Munshi (Priyanka Bose) and his sister, but discovered that Guddu was dead (killed by a train the same night that they were separated as children). The title of the film "Lion" referred to the meaning of his mispronounced name Saroo - or Sheru.

Love & Friendship (2016, Ire./Fr./Neth.), 92 minutes, D: Whit Stillman
Adapted from Jane Austen's late 18th century posthumously-published novel Lady Susan composed of a series of letters or diary entries, this romantic drama/comedy followed the title character's scheming search for suitably wealthy, privileged-class husbands to solve her financial difficulties, with considerable gossipy discussion about marital partners and sexual cunning. In the late 1790s, the flirtatious Lady Susan Vernon (Kate Beckinsale) - recently widowed and still young and beautiful, manipulatively sought to be matched up. After discussing her match-making plans with her trusted American friend Mrs. Alicia Johnson (Chloe Sevigny), Susan set out to visit her wealthy brother-in-law Charles Vernon (Justin Edwards) and his wife Catherine Vernon (née DeCourcy) (Emma Greenwell), at their Churchill country estate. One of Lady Susan's first conquests was the initially wary courtier Reginald DeCourcy (Xavier Samuel), Catherine's impressionable younger brother. After being expelled from her boarding school, Lady Susan's 16 year-old daughter Frederica (Morfydd Clark) unexpectedly arrived and soon entranced wealthy and foolishly clueless Sir James Martin (Tom Bennett), but she feared her mother's plans to get rid of her by marrying her off. In the meantime, in London, Lady Susan also carried on a continuing affair with married Lord Manwaring. In the end, Lady Susan and her daughter switched paramours - Reginald married Frederica, and Lady Susan married Sir James.

Loving (2016, UK/US), 123 minutes, D: Jeff Nichols
This romantic biographical drama was inspired by Nancy Buirski's documentary titled The Loving Story (2011) about the Lovings and their landmark Supreme Court case. In this inspirational, social problem film set in 1958, a married interracial couple in Caroline County, VA: white bricklayer Richard (Joel Edgerton) and 18 year-old Mildred (Jeter) Loving (Ruth Negga) - pregnant - were arrested in the middle of the night in their rural home and sentenced to prison for violating the state's laws against miscegenation. (They had married in Washington, DC where there were no anti-miscegenation laws.) To avoid prison time, they were ordered to move away and not return to Virginia together for at least 25 years. Eventually, they contested their case and became plaintiffs in the U.S. Supreme Court (the Warren Court) decision Loving v. Virginia (1967), which invalidated state laws prohibiting interracial marriage.

Manchester by the Sea (2016), 137 minutes, D: Kenneth Lonergan
In this insightful, poignant slice-of-life family drama about grief (told through numerous flashbacks), after a depressed man's brother died, he was entrusted with caring for his teenaged nephew. It told the story of apartment housing-complex handyman/janitor Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck), a divorced, heavy-drinking, troubled loner whose birth family lived in the waterside town of Manchester in Massachusetts. Lee had self-exiled himself and moved away after a family tragedy there (involving his involvement in the tragic and accidental death of his three children in a house fire) to live in Quincy, MA (a suburb of Boston). The anti-social Lee returned to his family's home after being notified that his fisherman brother Joe (Kyle Chandler) had died of congestive heart failure, when he was told that Joe had designated him as legal guardian for his teenaged 16 year-old son Patrick (Lucas Hedges), his own nephew. He was also surprised to learn that he was appointed the trustee for the estate on Patrick's behalf until Patrick came of age. Emotionally-unprepared for these major reponsibilities, Lee was forced to stay in Manchester in order to work things out, a difficult move for him that brought back repressed and tormented memories about his family and the past tragedy that destroyed his life (and led to the break-up of his marriage to his now estranged ex-wife Randi (Michelle Williams)).

Moana (2016), 107 minutes, D: Ron Clements and John Musker
Walt Disney's 56th animated feature film. In this 3D CGI animated, coming-of-age adventure film, strong-willed young Moana (voice of Auli'i Cravalho), the restless, independent daughter of overprotective Polynesian tribal chief Tui (Temuera Morrison), set off on a navigational quest from her island homeland of Motunui. It was suffering from a blight that was decimating the island. She teamed up with a chicken named Heihei (voice of Alan Tudyk) to locate a legendary island and retrieve a pounamu stone (a mystical relic) that belonged to Te Fiti, a goddess worshipped on on the ancient Polynesian island of Motunui. The precious artifact had been stolen from her a thousand years earlier by legendary, shape-shifting demigod Maui (voice of Dwayne Johnson). The return of the jeweled heart to Te Fiti would end an ancient curse and restore the island to prosperity and save Moana's people. Once she teamed up with Maui, who was eventually convinced to redeem himself by returning the heart, they experienced a fabulous journey together, exploring fantastic paradisical lands and encountering incredible monstrous underwater sea creatures (including a giant coconut crab). Following the return of the heart to Te Fiti, the goddess healed the ocean and the island's blight, and Moana returned home to be reunited with her parents as she became the tribe's new chieftess.

A Monster Calls (2016, UK/US/Sp./Can.), 108 minutes, D: J.A. Bayona
This dark, supernatural fantasy drama was based upon Patrick Ness' 2012 novel of the same name. The emotionally-deep tale was about artistic, 13 year-old British boy Conor O'Malley (Lewis MacDougall) who had a close bond with his terminally-ill, divorced mother Elisabeth "Lizzie" Clayton (credited as "Mom") (Felicity Jones) who was suffering from cancer. Plagued by bullying at school from classmate Harry (James Melville) and a recurring nightmare, one night at precisely 12:07 am, Conor was visited in a startling dream by a gnarly yet wise Monster (voice and motion-capture of Liam Neeson) - a colossal, anthropomorphic yew tree with thick tree roots. The Monster declared his promise to return and tell Conor three gripping morality tales at the same time of night, after which Conor had to tell the Monster a fourth and final story. As his mother's condition worsened during the course of the film, Conor moved in with his strict and cold "Grandma" - Mrs. Clayton (Sigourney Weaver). His secret friendship with the Monster helped Conor to imaginatively escape from the difficult and sad realities of his life. Conor's fourth truthful tale told to the Monster brought him the realization that his mother's death was inevitable, and along with his guilt-feelings and grief, he could also expect a sense of comfort and relief so that he could move forward from his suffering.

Moonlight (2016), 111 minutes, D: Barry Jenkins
Barry Jenkins' coming-of-age drama about closeted homosexuality and dysfunctional families - a Best Picture-winning film (the first to win with an all-black cast), was based upon unpublished semi-autobiographical play "In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue," by Tarell Alvin McCraney. The story of a black gay youth's discovery of his sexuality as he grew up in Miami was structured by three stages of the protagonist's life, as he suffered abuse (both physical and emotional) throughout his life from his drug-addicted, prostituted single mother Paula (Naomie Harris): (1) as Chiron (nicknamed "Little") (Alex R. Hibbert), a shy and withdrawn 10 year-old elementary school student who was taken in by kind-hearted Afro-Cuban drug dealer Juan (Mahershala Ali), who became a father figure and mentor, and his girlfriend Teresa (Janelle Monáe), (2) as teenaged adolescent Chiron (Ashton Sanders), with supportive friendship from his long-time childhood friend Kevin (Jharrel Jerome) with whom they shared similar homosexual tendencies, and a violent confrontation that led Chiron to be assigned to juvenile hall, and (3) as twenty-something Chiron (nicknamed "Black") (Trevante Rhoses), an adult drug-dealer in Atlanta, GA, who reconnected with both his mother at a drug treatment center and his close friend from the past Kevin (André Holland), working as a line cook.

Nocturnal Animals (2016), 116 minutes, D: Tom Ford
Austin Wright's 1993 novel "Tony and Susan" was the basis for this violent and raw crime thriller-drama (and part mystery) about rich and chic female art gallery owner Susan Morrow (Amy Adams) in Los Angeles. She was captivated during the reading of a novel's manuscript written by her estranged ex-husband Edward Sheffield (Jake Gyllenhaal), a wanna-be writer from her marriage two decades earlier. The about-to-be published novel was titled "Nocturnal Animals" - and was dedicated to her (its title was the nickname given to her by Sheffield). She became greatly shocked and dismayed by the novel's horrifying content when she suspected that the story, a revenge fantasy, was inspired by her former marriage to Edward and that she might be in jeopardy. Her own current married life was unsatisfactory, unhappy, crumbling and in conflict due to her unfaithful and neglectful businessman-husband Hutton Morrow's (Armie Hammer) infidelities, and her own feelings of guilt and inadequacy. As the film unfolded, so did the pages of the novel that were brought to life. The novel's cautionary tale was about a husband named Tony Hastings (Jake Gyllenhaal), his wife Laura (Isla Fisher) and their daughter India (Ellie Bamber) on a road trip who were assaulted on a West Texas highway one evening by a group of hoodlums, led by sadistic, redneck ringleader Ray Marcus (Aaron Taylor-Johnson). Soon after, Laura and India were found raped and murdered, and the ghastly story ended lethally and violently for everyone involved. To Susan, the story-within-a-story appeared emblematic of the disastrous and troubled marriage she had with Edward - and her realization that their breakup was somewhat attributable to her own cruel deceit.

Paterson (2016, Fr./Germ./US), 118 minutes, D: Jim Jarmusch
Jarmusch's meditative, modest comedy-drama told about the everyday life of a Paterson, NJ couple: creative poet and city bus driver Paterson (Adam Driver) and his committed, stay-at-home girlfriend Laura (Golshifteh Farahani), an aspiring country music Nashville star who also dreamed of being a bakery shop owner selling cupcakes. The quiet, simple, and subdued film followed a typical week in their working-class lives, beginning with a Monday. Their minimalist routines were familiar - mostly uneventful work days, some moments free to write inspired poetry in a notebook, walking Laura's English bull-dog Marvin each night, and a beer with his buddies at Shades Bar. One of Paterson's main idols was Puerto Rican-American poet William Carlos Williams (notable for his poetic work titled 'Paterson'). A turning point in the film was when Marvin destroyed Paterson's notebook of poems when they were away attending a Saturday night movie, but Paterson would continue to fill a new blank notebook gifted to him by a Japanese tourist.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016), 133 minutes, D: Gareth Edwards
This stand-alone spin-off (and prequel) served as a "bridge" between two previous episodes of the saga. It was set after Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith (2005) - and before the events of the first chronologically-released film in the series, Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977). It was intended as the first part of a long-running Star Wars anthology series. It was also the highest-grossing (domestic) film of 2016. This epic adventure-war film (a space opera) told about the efforts of an heroic group of unlikely characters who formed a "rogue" Rebel Alliance (in the Resistance) and attempted to steal the evil Galactic Empire's plans for the Death Star (a deep-space mobile battle station), their ultimate weapon of mass destruction. In the opening, the Death Star's Imperial mastermind developer Commander Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn) captured the Empire's reluctant head researcher Galen Erso (Mads Mikkelsen) to complete his work. During the confrontation, Erso's renegade daughter Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) fled and was rescued by rebel extremist Saw Gerrera (Forest Whitaker). Fifteen years later, Rebel Alliance intelligence officer and dashing veteran pilot Cassian Andor (Diego Luna), with his reprogrammed, sentient Imperial droid named K-2SO (voice of Alan Tudyk), freed Jyn from an Imperial labor camp. They became part of a team that had to conduct a risky mission to help find Jyn's father (who had information about a vulnerability in the Death Star's design). The secret schematic blueprints were located in an Imperial data bank on the planet Scarif. Additional squad members included cargo pilot and Imperial defector Bodhi Rook (Riz Ahmed) and blind Force believer Chirrut Îmwe (Donnie Yen). In the exciting conclusion, many Alliance members lost their lives in obtaining the schematics, but they were able to successfully transmit the plans to a fleeing Rebel ship where a CGI-created Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) declared, in the final words of the film: "Hope."

Silence (2016, Mex./Taiw./US), 161 minutes, D: Martin Scorsese
Scorsese's dramatic and historical religious epic-thriller asked tough questions about religious faith in the midst of dark times. It was set in the 17th century and based upon Shusaku Endo's 1966 novel of the same name. It was about the mission of two young Jesuit priests who traveled from Portugal to Edo-era Japan via Macau to locate their missing mentor, while continuing to spread Catholic Christianity. During the time period of the film, because Christianity was outlawed in Japan by the Tokugawa shogunate, Japanese converts to the Christian-Catholic faith were being gruesomely tortured and persecuted in order to eliminate them by a merciless inquisitor - governor Inoue Masashige (Issey Ogata). After receiving word that his mentor Father Cristóvão Ferreira (Liam Neeson) had renounced his faith and denounced God after being tortured, Portuguese Father Sebastião Rodrigues (Andrew Garfield) and another Jesuit clergyman Father Francisco Garupe (Adam Driver) journeyed to the island nation of Japan to investigate and locate Ferreira. Inevitably, Rodrigues was captured by Inoue and forced to make a deadly decision - to publicy recant to save himself and others, or to persist in his faith to save everyone.

Sing Street (2016, Ire./UK/US), 106 minutes, D: John Carney
Both a coming-of-age drama and a romantic musical, this boy-meets-girl film - set in 1985 in an inner-city section of Dublin, Ireland - told about a teenaged boy who formed a band to impress an enigmatic girl he had just met. Shy, guitar-playing Irish 15-year-old teen Conor "Cosmo" Lawlor (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) was forced to switch to a much rougher public school to save money for his upper middle-class family (with a disintegrating marital relationship) due to his father Robert's (Aidan Gillen) struggling architectural business. At his new school, Conor met beautiful aspiring model, a trend-conscious and orphaned Raphina (Lucy Boynton), and he promised her that she could star in a music video that his band was producing. Without a band, actually, Conor persuaded his friend - budding businessman Darren Mulvey (Ben Carolan) to manage a newly-formed band (named Sing Street), and Eamon (Mark McKenna) to be the band's multi-talented musician. With help from his stoner brother Brendan (Jack Reynor), Conor and the band were soon able to produce their first music video with their first original song "The Riddle of the Model," with Raphina acting as the star ingénue and makeup artist. As their romantic relationship blossomed (and fell apart, but then was followed by reconciliation), so did Conor's music. By the film's end, the fairy-tale romance between Conor and Raphina was strongly cemented as they headed off to London to find work.

Sully (2016), 96 minutes, D: Clint Eastwood
Based on a true story, this exceptional fact-based, biographical docudrama was about the "Miracle on the Hudson" emergency water landing in January of 2009, when a distressed US Airways plane (Flight # 1549) piloted by veteran Capt. Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger (Tom Hanks) had no other alternative but to put the plane down in the water. The film covered the events that led up to the day, when the Airbus A320 was taking off and struck a flock of geese at about 2,800 ft., disabling both engines. Miraculously, the heroic pilot commandered the plane with his co-pilot, First Officer Jeff Skiles (Aaron Eckhart), to gently ditch or touch down (without crashing) into the water, thereby saving the lives of all 155 passengers and crew on board the aircraft. After the traumatic experience, the haunted Sully continued to second-guess his own triumphant actions, particularly in the light of the NTSA's investigative finding that the plane might have landed at two nearby airports (either LaGuardia or Teterboro), according to computer simulations. However, after further test runs and simulations, Sully's strong belief and insistence that the plane wouldn't have made either airport was vindicated.

20th Century Women (2016), 118 minutes, D. Mike Mills
Set in the summer of 1979 in Southern California (Santa Barbara), this thought-provoking, off-beat, poignant, coming-of-age dramedy was about parenting and a mother-son pairing. It told about the relationship between long-divorced single mother, 55-year-old Dorothea Fields (Annette Bening) and her 15-year-old high-school student/son Jamie Fields (Lucas Jade Zumann). Employed as a boarding-house landlord in an old Victorian home, the liberal-minded, previously-hip and bohemian-minded Dorothea worked along-side mellow handyman William (Billy Crudup), an Earth-child role model, but she decided nonetheless to recruit two of her younger female tenants who already knew Jamie, to serve as guiding mentors for her mid-adolescent teenaged son who was transitioning into adulthood. To help raise Jamie into a good 'feminist man' who could sympathize with women, she selected quirky, punkish (magenta-haired), 24 year-old aspiring photographer and feminist Abbie Porter (Greta Gerwig) (with a cancer diagnosis), and her son's childhood best friend - 17 year-old blonde Julie Hamlin (Elle Fanning) - a troubled, morose and sexually-active teen (but not with Jamie). As Jamie's indoctrination and navigation into the world of the late 70s progressed, he struggled to make sense of the changing world, as Dorothea (and the other females) also realized that there was a completely different, new and foreign world on the horizon.

The VVitch (2015/2016, US/UK/Can./Braz.) (aka The VVitch: A New England Folktale), 92 minutes, D: Robert Eggers
Subtitled "A New England Folktale" and set in the 1630s, this intensely-scary, supernatural horror film followed a devout Puritan family who encountered forces of evil in the dark, spooky and secluded woods surrounding their farm. The newly-settled family had recently been banished (or exiled) from their Puritan Plymouth Colony because of their differing religious views, and forced to live on their own in the isolated location - under harsh survivalist conditions. Soon after the relocation of English settler William (Ralph Ineson) and his large family, including his wife Katherine (Kate Dickie), and their four young children, a fifth male baby was born named Samuel. Shortly later, while being cared for by their eldest teenaged daughter Thomasin (Anya Taylor-Joy), the unbaptized baby was thought to be kidnapped by a witch, and it was implied that the baby was killed and the remains were ground up to make an hallucinogenic ointment. Following the tragedy, many other ominous things began to occur, causing the parents to become increasingly paranoid about a vengeful God punishing them. In particular, they began to fervently believe that their daughter Thomasin was possessed by a bewitching spell. They turned insanely mad and fearful, suspecting that witching forces from the forest were overtaking and terrorizing them, and began to turn on each other. One by one, the members of the family perished. By the film's conclusion, the parents' earlier dreaded fears had become credible, when Thomasin (fully undressed) was lured by the family's billy goat Black Phillip (incarnated in human form) into the woods to join a coven of naked witches holding a Witches' Sabbath around a bonfire.

Zootopia (2016), 108 minutes, D: Byron Howard and Rich Moore
This 3D, CGI-animated Disney production (with clever social commentary) was the studio's 55th animated feature film. In this buddy cop and animal story set in urban Zootopia - an enlightened world of anthropomorphic mammals (both predator and prey) that peacefully lived together in harmony, an unlikely partnership evolved. The pairing was between a small-town, rabbit police officer named Judy Hopps (voice of Ginnifer Goodwin) - a spunky new cop (and the first rabbit) in the Zootopian police force, and a sly red fox named Nick Wilde (voice of Jason Bateman) - known to be a small-time con artist and hustler. At first Judy was assigned to boring parking-duty work by African buffalo Chief of Police Bogo (voice of Idris Elba). But then, Judy was forced to ask Nick to assist her in a case investigation to uncover a criminal plot involving 14 recent predator (carnivorous) kidnappings, and a possible prey-supremacist conspiracy. Things became more threatening in Zootopia when some of the missing predators returned with their savage instincts revived, causing a rise of racist prejudice amongst the city's herbivores (the population's majority).


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