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


Academy Awards for 2015 Films
Title Screen Film Genre(s), Title, Year, (Country), Length, Director, Description

Amy (2015, UK), 128 minutes, D: Asif Kapadia
This forthright documentary presented the rapid rise and tragic fall of British singer-songwriter Amy Winehouse. Plagued by her heavy abuse of drugs (crack cocaine and heroin) and alcohol and her troubled relationships, her life was taken early in July of 2011 due to alcohol poisoning at the age of 27. She struggled with alcohol use even when she was a young teen. Her career took off in the mid-2000s with the release of her only two albums: Frank (2003) and Back to Black (2006). The textured film - with many excerpts of her singing style and voice - pieced together interviews, performance shoots, outtakes, and previously unseen footage of the young, gifted and talented rising star. It ended with Winehouse's funeral and a final video tribute to her.

Anomalisa (2015), 90 minutes, D: Charlie Kaufman & Duke Johnson
Co-director and adapted screenwriter Charlie Kaufman based this stop-motion animated film upon his own 2005 audio play Anomalisa, written under the pseudonym Francis Fregoli. [Note: Fregoli referred to a rare psychological disorder that caused a person to inaccurately believe that different people were in fact a single person.] Set in the year 2005, this bizarrely-dramatic, mind-blowing film about a personal existential crisis followed lonely author, customer service expert and motivational speaker Michael Stone (voice of David Thewlis) who suffered from Fregoli disorder. After publishing his latest self-help book, "How May I Help You Help Them?", he traveled on a business trip to Cincinnati, OH to promote his book and speak about customer service at a convention in the Fregoli Hotel. He was melancholy (feeling negative about life), delusional, unmotivated and dissociated from life due to his disorder. He perceived the world as one of mundane repetitiveness, and it appeared to him that everyone's voice (voice of Tom Noonan) sounded the same, until he heard the voice of Lisa Hesselman (voice of Jennifer Jason Leigh) in the hallway. She was revealed to be a unique, extraordinary and insecure female who had come from Akron, OH to hear his talk. After she called herself an anomaly, he nicknamed her "Anomalisa" - and they had an intimate sexual encounter. His next struggle was to keep her magical nature from becoming bland like everyone else, to prevent others from curtailing their relationship, and to keep himself from reverting to his old disconnected self.

Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015), 141 minutes, D: Joss Whedon
The 11th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). In this action-filled, ensemble superhero sequel to Marvel's The Avengers (2012), the Avengers teamed up to combat a sentient being known as Ultron (voice of James Spader), an artificial intelligence obsessed with a mission to eradicate humanity to save Earth. The Avengers in the comic-book-styled film included Tony Stark / Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), the Incredible Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Steve Rogers / Captain America (Chris Evans), Clint Barton / Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), and Natasha Romanoff / Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson). It was an ironic fact that Ultron had been designed as a peace-keeping program, but the robotic android took its directives to the extreme with the belief that the only means to attain world peace was to homicidally exterminate all human beings. Two allies joining Ultron were super-powered twin siblings: Pietro Maximoff / Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) with super-human speed, and Wanda Maximoff / Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) with telekinetic and hypnotic powers.

The Big Short (2015), 130 minutes, D: Adam McKay
Based upon Michael Lewis' 2010 best-selling, non-fiction book "The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine," this semi-biographical docu-drama surveyed the financial strategies of various players during the 2000s when they bet against the stock market and the housing market by creating the credit default swap market. They accurately forecast the collapse of high-risk subprime loans (residential mortgages) because of excessive lending practices. By predicting that the markets would inevitably crash, investors bet against, or shorted, market-based mortgage-backed securities, for a profit. The risk-taking investors included: Scion Capital hedge fund manager Michael Burry (Christian Bale), Mark Baum (Steve Carell) - the head of a trading firm known as FrontPoint Partners, Deutsche Bank executive trader Jared Vennett (Ryan Gosling), and retired ex-securities trader Ben Rickert (Brad Pitt), who took advantage of corruption, fraud and dishonesty (especially orchestrated by mortgage brokers, banks and within credit-ratings agencies). The situation eventually triggered the US' 2007 'housing bubble' and housing market crash that spiraled into the major financial meltdown and crisis of 2007-2008, benefiting and profiting those who had manipulated the market, while leaving millions of others homeless and unemployed.

Bridge of Spies (2015), 141 minutes, D: Steven Spielberg
Spielbeg's Cold War thriller was based on historical facts surrounding the early 1960s exchange of spy-prisoners on the Glienicke Bridge connecting Potsdam with Berlin. In dramatic fashion, it followed the earlier work of idealistic Brooklyn insurance lawyer James B. Donovan (Tom Hanks) who in the 1957 trial (nicknamed the Hollow Nickel Case) had represented convicted Soviet KGB spy Colonel Rudolf Abel (Mark Rylance) (aka William August Fisher). He was able to convince the presiding Judge Mortimer W. Byers (Dakin Matthews) to have his defendant's sentence reduced from the death penalty to a 30-year penitentiary term for undercover espionage against the U.S. Then, Donovan was again hired by the CIA to be involved as a negotiator in a high-stakes international hostage situation between the US and the Soviets. He worked to facilitate the exchange of Rudolf Abel for notorious USAF pilot Francis Gary Powers (Austin Stowell) who flew a U-2 spy plane over the USSR in 1960 and was shot down and imprisoned. Donovan was also masterfully able to secure the release of wrongfully-imprisoned American graduate student Frederic Pryor (Will Rogers), who had been arrested in East Germany. The exchanges took place on February 10, 1962 almost simultaneously - Powers and Abel at the Glienicke Bridge, and Pryor at Checkpoint Charlie.

Brooklyn (2015, Ire./UK/Canada), 111 minutes, D: John Crowley
John Crowley's romantic, coming-of-age, immigration-based period drama was adapted from Colm Tóibín's 2009 novel of the same name. It was set in 1951 during a time of heavy Irish migration to the US (specifically NYC). The central character was meek, small-town Irish girl Eilis Lacey (Saoirse Ronan) from Enniscorthy (Wexford County) in SE Ireland. To seek employment, it was arranged with US sponsor - Irish priest Father Flood (Jim Broadbent), for her to emigrate to Brooklyn, NY, where she first found lodging with other similar immigrants in a crowded boarding house headed by gossipy Ms. Kehoe (Julie Walters). Despite being homesick and lonely, she resourcefully took bookkeeping-accounting classes at night at Brooklyn College, and worked during the day as a shopgirl at Bartocci's - a Brooklyn department store. At an Irish dance, she met amiable, blue-collar, hard-working Italian-American Tony Fiorello (Emory Cohen), a local plumber, and they dated before secretly marrying at City Hall. At the same time in mid-1952, the death of Eilis' unmarried older sister Rose (Fiona Glascott) forced her to return to Ireland, where she put her accounting skills to use and was also courted by attractive, charming, well-off bachelor Jimmy Farrell (Domhnall Gleeson), while remaining non-committal to him. When forced with the bittersweet choice of two destinies - her stifling, provincial Irish hometown or a house on Long Island with Tony, she chose the latter way of life.

Carol (2015, UK/US), 118 minutes, D: Todd Haynes
Adapted from Patricia Highsmith's 1952 semi-autobiographical novel "The Price of Salt," director Todd Haynes' romantic melodrama of a secret, intimate and risky forbidden love included feminist themes and gay/lesbian sexual content. The R-rated, modern-day "womens' picture" was set mostly in late 1952 - a very restrictive, prejudicial, sexist and conformist period. It followed the unexpected development of an affair between two females in different social-spheres in NYC: aspiring photographer Therese Belivet (Rooney Mara) who worked as a shop-girl clerk in Frankenberg's, a Manhattan department store, and older, glamorous, and elegant New Jersey housewife Carol Aird (Cate Blanchett) who was about to endure a difficult divorce from her husband Harge (Kyle Chandler). The estranged couple were engaged in a loveless marriage with a young daughter named Rindy (Kk Heim). Although Therese had a boyfriend named Richard Semco (Jack Lacy), a spark immediately developed with Carol after the two first met at the toy counter of the store during Christmas-time. Harge became suspicious of their friendship because of Carol's previous lesbian relationship with her best friend and former lover Abby Gerhard (Sarah Paulson). During ongoing divorce proceedings over the custody of their daughter, Harge raised questions to the judge about his wife Carol's homosexuality and lack of fitness as a mother. He also secretly hired a private investigator Tommy Tucker (Cory Michael Smith) to document Carol's increasing romantic involvement with Therese (including their conversations and sexual encounter in their hotel room) during their road-trip to the Mid-West over the Christmas-New Years' holidays. Facing painful social ostracism and bigotry, would the passionate attraction between the two women survive?

Chi-Raq (2015), 127 minutes, D: Spike Lee
Spike Lee's preachy and controversial urban drama (peppered with musical-dance performances and hip-hop rhymes) presented a sex-filled message in the form of a modern-day adaptation of Lysistrata, an ancient, centuries-old play written in 411 BC by Aristophanes. In the original Greek play, women withheld sex from their warrior-men until they called for a cease-fire in the Peloponnesian War. The hyphenated title referred to the locales of Chicago, IL and Iraq (both with high murder and death rates). The compelling political satire told about two warring rival gangs located in the south side of the city of Chicago (in the low-income Englewood neighborhood): the purple-clad Spartans led by underground rapper-gang leader Demetrius "Chi-Raq" Dupree (Nick Cannon), and the orange-clad Trojans headed by eye-patch-wearing Sean "Cyclops" Andrews (Wesley Snipes). The potential for more black-on-black violence escalated when 11 year-old innocent neighborhood girl Patti was killed during a gang drive-by shooting following a concert. Together with anti-violence matriarchal advocate Miss Helen Worthy (Angela Bassett), Chi-Raq's lover-girlfriend Lysistrata (Teyonah Parris) announced after a meeting of the female lovers on both sides that they would seek a peaceful armistice by holding a sex strike and vowing abstinence, with the boycott slogan: "No Peace, No Pussy." They also boldly took over a local military armory to stage their protest via celibacy. Meanwhile, the grief-stricken mother Irene (Jennifer Hudson) demanded justice for her little girl, and was joined by efforts of anti-gun, local activist Father Mike Corridan (John Cusack) in a black church to rally for government and community involvement. The always-present one-person "Greek Chorus" was conveyed by narrator Dolemedes (Samuel L. Jackson) who often presented soliloquys to the camera. Ultimately, the boycott was successful and helped quell further violence, and brought the killer forward to tearfully confess to Patti's murder.

Creed (2015), 133 minutes, D: Ryan Coogler
This underdog sports-drama film was the sequel to Rocky Balboa (2006), and also served as a spin-off from the entire franchise series - as the 7th installment. The main character (other than Rocky himself) was Adonis "Donnie" Johnson Creed (Michael B. Jordan), the (illegitimate) son of famous former world heavyweight champion Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers), who was Rocky's (Sylvester Stallone) rival in the first two films in the series, after which they became friends. 30 years earlier in Rocky IV (1985), Apollo Creed died in the ring (before Adonis' birth) during a fight with the Soviet Union's Ivan Drago. With aspirations to be a boxer like his father without riding on his coat-tails, in 2015, Adonis trained in Tijuana and fought in amateur boxing bouts before leaving his investment banking day-job in LA and moving to Philadelphia to become a pro boxer, under the tutelage of Apollo's old friend and rival, Rocky Balboa. He began training and mentoring at the Front Street Gym with Rocky, and also began a romantic relationship with aspiring singer/songwriter Bianca (Tessa Thompson). He adopted the fight name Johnson and the nickname "Hollywood" - although was forced to change his surname to Creed. He prepared to face reigning British champ "Pretty" Ricky Conlan (Anthony Bellew), while aging Rocky's own declining health began to deteriorate as the date for the light heavyweight title fight approached. The bout was held at Goodison Park in Conlan's hometown of Liverpool, and ended with Conlan's split-decision win, although "Donnie" respectably held his own.

The Danish Girl (2015, UK/Germ./US), 119 minutes, D: Tom Hooper
The lives of Danish painters Lili Elbe and Gerda Wegener, and David Ebershoff's 2004 novel of the same name formed the basis for this biographical romantic drama about transgender identity. In the real-life story, a married couple: androgynous-looking landscape artist Einar Wegener (Eddie Redmayne) and portrait artist Gerda Wegener (Alicia Vikander), lived and painted together in Copenhagen in the mid-1920s. The turning point for Einar came when Gerda's painting model failed to arrive, and Einar posed for her in a dress and pantyhose. The profound experience of dressing as a woman caused Einar to realize his deep-seated gender identity as a woman, and he renamed himself as transformed female Lili Elbe to adopt the new identity. Feeling trapped in the wrong body, he began to consider a sex-change operation. Facing discrimination and accusations of mental illness in Denmark, the couple traveled to Germany to find an accommodating surgeon, Dr. Kurt Warnekros (Sebastian Koch). There, Lili became one of the first documented, male-to-female sex-reassignment surgery recipients in the early 1930s. The film also followed the changing dynamics of the relationship between Lili and Gerda

The Diary of a Teenage Girl (2015), 102 minutes, D: Marielle Heller
A semi-autobiographical, sexually-graphic hybrid novel titled "The Diary of a Teenage Girl: An Account in Words and Pictures" by Phoebe Gloeckner was the basis for this romantic drama - a frank account of a precocious teenaged girl's sexual awakening with her mother's boyfriend. In this coming-of-age story set in San Francisco in 1976, 15-year-old aspiring cartoonist Minnie Goetze (Bel Powley) kept a tape-recorded audio diary about her two passionate interests: cartooning and sexuality. Early on, she decided to lose her virginity to 35 year-old Monroe Rutherford (Alexander Skarsgård), an older man who was dating her bohemian mother Charlotte Worthington (Kristen Wiig). She continued to explore her burgeoning sexuality with more lustful sexual encounters with her male classmates that she recounted in detail in her diary and with her girlfriend Kimmie Minter (Madeleine Waters). Ultimately, Minnie learned that her self-esteem and happiness were only available to her by loving herself, and not by seeking the affection of others, and she began to concentrate more on her cartoonist career.

Ex Machina (2015, UK), 108 minutes, D: Alex Garland
This dramatic sci-fi tale was a cerebral thriller about artificial intelligence. The plot also involved an intense love triangle between its three main characters. The storyline contained elements of Frankenstein, Fritz Lang's Maria robot in Metropolis (1927), the Prometheus myth, the Bluebeard tale, the Bible (names of the main characters) and even a 1969 Star Trek TV episode entitled "Requiem for Methuselah." The film also had a 6-7 day timeline, familiar to the Biblical act of creation and the Garden of Eden story - and a climax in which the Creator was killed by his Creation. The film's makers took their inspiration for their robots from sculptures by Brancusi, modernist Bauhaus sculptures, Formula One Suspension, and high-end concept bicycles - and they also studied human anatomy. The film began by introducing brilliant programmer-coder Caleb Smith (Domhnall Gleeson), who had won a company-wide lottery contest at his high-tech work place - the popular search engine company BlueBook (a hybrid of Google and Facebook). He was awarded a one-week visit at the isolated, luxurious mountain home of reclusive, hard-drinking and rich CEO Nathan Bateman (Oscar Isaac) - a secluded, ultra-modern residence in Alaska. It was a "research facility" (with walls of glass). Nathan called his project "the greatest scientific event in the history of man." The home was solely attended by only one other person - the unspeaking Japanese house servant Kyoko (Sonoya Mizuno) (spoiler - later revealed to be an android). Bateman instructed Smith to conduct research by administering the Turing test to one of his completely life-like creations or inventions - a beautiful, talking, walking, expressive, charming and intelligent female humanoid robot named Ava (Alicia Vikander) with artificial intelligence. Ava was a marvelous, realistic F/X creation, composed of encased circuitry within a metal skeleton and human face/hands/feet. She had see-through limbs, a chrome-domed cranium, and a glowing, see-through midriff power-core. The test would determine her mental, emotional and intuitive capabilities - her humanity and consciousness ("the challenge is to show you that she's a robot, and then see if you still feel she has consciousness"). In other words, 'how do we know when true artificial intelligence (AI) has been achieved?' As the tale progressed and during conversations with the very realistic Ava in her isolated cell, Ava was able to convince Caleb that she was being confined and abused; he also began to have infatuated romantic feelings for her; Ava warned that Caleb should not trust his host Nathan, who was prone to hard-drinking and erratic behavior. It was revealed that Kyoko was also a robotic humanoid, possibly a failed test robot. Nathan had a hidden agenda and ulterior motives - he wanted to become god and control his Modern Prometheus - and had summoned Caleb to see if Ava was human-like enough to persuade Caleb to be deceived into helping her escape from the confines (Ava knew of the deception and told Caleb: "You shouldn't trust me, you shouldn't trust anything he [Nathan] says"). During an escape attempt due to one of Ava's induced power-outage blackouts, Ava ordered Kyoko to lethally stab Nathan (as a result, Kyoko was disabled and Ava was slightly damaged). Victorious, Ava borrowed body flesh and components mostly from the stored, deprogrammed remains of android prototype Jade (Gana Bayarsaikhan) to create a new fleshly exterior. In the thrilling conclusion, the manipulative ex-machina Ava was plotting an escape into the outside world - evidence of her true and highly-advanced intelligence; she disguised herself as a real woman, took one last look at Caleb, and fled from the facility in a helicopter (arriving to pick up Caleb), leaving him imprisoned and locked inside (although potentially able to escape if he could recode the lockdown procedure and create a power outage). She was able to foil both men and leave the facility dressed as an undetectable human female. Ava slipped into the crowd on a busy street, and then disappeared imperceptibly to mingle with humanity.

Fast & Furious 7 (2015) (aka Furious 7), 137 minutes, D: James Wan
This action thriller and chase movie was the 7th installment in the entire Fast & Furious franchise series, the sequel to Fast & Furious 6 (2013), and noted as actor Paul Walker's final film. [Note: He tragically died halfway through production, and his scenes were finished with script rewrites, digital magic and stand-ins.] In the violent and car crash-filled story, rogue Special Forces assassin Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) visited his defeated and comatose younger brother - international terrorist Owen Shaw (Luke Evans) - in a London hospital. He blamed his brother's dire condition (seen in the previous film in Spain when he was ejected from a plane) on a gang of street racers, led by Dominic "Dom" Toretto (Vin Diesel). He vowed revenge, beginning with an attack on DSS offices in Los Angeles, resulting in badly crippling federal agent Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson), followed by a second attack leading to the death of team member Han Lue (Sung Kang) in Tokyo. "Dom" and his team, including undercover FBI agent Brian O'Conner (Paul Walker) (and his wife Mia (Jordana Brewster)), racer Letty Ortiz (Michelle Rodriguez) (Dom's wife), ex-criminal Roman Pearce (Tyrese Gibson), and mechanic Tej Parker (Chris "Ludacris" Bridges), came together to battle Deckard. At the same time, "Dom" struck a deal with shadowy covert ops secret agent Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell). In exchange for helping to stop Shaw, the team had to rescue kidnapped British hacker and software genius Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel), who had created a computer tracking and espionage/surveillance program known only as "God's Eye." And to complicate matters, she was held by African mercenary terrorist Mose Jakande (Djimon Hounsou). The actions of the gang led them to Azerbaijan, Abu Dhabi, and back to Los Angeles, where the villainous double-threat was eventually overcome. The film concluded with Brian's retirement and farewell, and a moving tribute to Paul Walker's character.

45 Years (2015, UK), 95 minutes, D: Andrew Haigh
Based on David Constantine's 2015 collection of short stories "In Another Country," this romantic drama was a thought-provoking character study about past memories, death, and infidelity. It told about a stable, childless married couple - Geoff (Tom Courtenay) and Kate Mercer (Charlotte Rampling) who were about to celebrate their 45th anniversary with their close friends in a community town hall near Norwich where they lived. A week before the party, Geoff unexpectedly received a letter and learned stunning and troubling news that the body of his German ex-fiancée Katya from the early 1960s had been found. Her body had been discovered in a melting glacier more than 50 years after she disappeared into a crevasse during a hiking vacation with him in the Alps in Switzerland. After this startling discovery, Kate realized that Geoff was exhibiting signs of distress - moodiness, increased smoking, and disquiet. She began to look more closely into her husband's past by secretly perusing through some of her memorabilia in the attic, including a slide carousel with images showing Katya's apparent pregnancy at the time of her death. Kate's discovery of unforeseen revelations began to change her perceptions of her husband's former self and doubt their entire past relationship.

The Hateful Eight (2015), 167 minutes, D: Quentin Tarantino
Typical of Tarantino's films, this bloody, violent and vulgar revisionist western was a lengthy, who-dun-it thriller about a group of "hateful eight" strangers who sought refuge in a stagecoach mountain lodge known as Minnie's Haberdashery during a blinding snowstorm. Set in a post-Civil War period in the year 1870, bounty hunter John 'The Hangman' Ruth (Kurt Russell) was transporting handcuffed fugitive Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh) to Red Rock, WY to be executed (by hanging). On his stagecoach journey, he met up with fellow bounty hunter and ex-Union soldier Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson) (with his three dead bounties) and ex-Confederate rebel militiaman Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins) - who claimed he was Red Rock's next town sheriff. A fifth individual was stagecoach driver O.B. (James Parks). The group was forced to shelter at the lodge where four additional strangers were already in place: Mexican caretaker Señor Bob (aka Marco 'The Mexican') (Demián Bichir), British executioner "Oswaldo Mobray" (aka Pete 'English Pete' Hicox) (Tim Roth) - Red Rock's newly-appointed hangman, cowboy Joe Gage (aka 'Grouch' Douglass) (Michael Madsen), and ex-Confederate General Sanford "Sandy" Smithers (Bruce Dern). In the claustrophic, entrapping confines of Minnie's isolated place, each of the various desperate, deadly and paranoid individuals revealed their true intentions and identities, and connections to each other. One by one, group members (some imposters) bargained for their lives but eventually, all were eliminated or dying - including the last two survivors: Mannix and Warren.

Inside Out (2015), 95 minutes, D: Pete Docter, Ronnie Del Carmen
Disney/Pixar's computer-animated fantasy-comedy was the studios' 15th feature film. Its main themes were the up-and-down turmoils of growing up and ways to control one's most prominent emotions. The very original animation followed the personified emotions of hockey-loving, 11 year-old Riley's (voice of Kaitlyn Dias) personality when she was uprooted from her Midwestern home in Minnesota by her parents (voices of Diane Lane and Kyle MacLachlan) to a new environment in San Francisco. Her five basic emotions were personified as Joy (voice of Amy Poehler), Sadness (voice of Phyllis Smith), Anger (voice of Lewis Black), Fear (voice of Bill Hader), and Disgust (voice of Mindy Kaling). The control center inside Riley's mind, known as Headquarters (HQ), housed the five emotions, who voiced their concerns as Riley went about her adjustment to the city, school, and her new home. Riley's most powerful emotion Joy, one that usually kept her with a positive and optimistic attitude, was soon overwhelmed by other conflicting feelings. In a time of disorder and crisis during Riley's first day at school, Joy and Sadness, along with Riley's core memories, were sucked into long-term memory storage, allowing the other three emotions to dominate Riley's life symbolic of the tumultuous emotions of a teenager. During their displacement and their struggles to return to HQ, Joy and Sadness journeyed through other parts of her mind - including an area known as the Memory Dump, a decompression chamber titled "Abstract Thought," and a dream-producing movie studio. Eventually, Riley was able to create a new core memory combining both happiness and sadness, once she realistically accepted the good and the bad aspects of her new life.

Joy (2015), 124 minutes, D: David O. Russell
The central character of this inspiring, real-life, biographical dramedy was "Joy" Mangano (Jennifer Lawrence), a struggling working-class single mother who became a self-made millionaire by inventing the Miracle Mop. Her many challenges and struggles were reviewed, including flashbacks to briefly survey her dysfunctional childhood on Long Island. Then, in 1990 her struggles continued with her large and complicated extended family living together in Peconic, Suffolk County, NY, while she worked as an Eastern Airlines booking clerk-agent. She had always let go of her own inspirations, inventive ideas and dreams (of an education), and was stuck living with her TV soap opera-addicted single mother Terri (Virginia Madsen). Joy was a divorced mother with two children from a failed marriage with her lazy ex-husband Tony Miranne (Édgar Ramírez) who was living in the basement along with her three-times-divorced father Rudy (Robert De Niro). Taking a risk by using all her life's savings and taking out a 2nd home mortgage, and with money invested by Rudy's newest girlfriend - wealthy and widowed Trudy (Isabella Rossellini), she invented and then began to produce and market a household product known as the revolutionary, self-wringing Miracle Mop. Her big break came after she met executive Neil Walker (Bradley Cooper) at the home-shopping network QVC, but she also faced many legal and financial issues before finally becoming successful, and serving as her family's matriarch.

Jurassic World (2015), 124 minutes, D: Colin Trevorrow
The 4th installment of the Jurassic Park series-franchise
- a more violent and scary action-adventure sci-fi thriller reboot about the dinosaur-themed park with genetically-cloned dinosaurs providing entertainment for masses of visitors. It was the highest-grossing (domestic) film of 2015. It served as the first film in a new trilogy of "Jurassic World" installments, set on the same fictional Central American island of Isla Nublar. The time period followed what occurred in Jurassic Park III (2001), set about 22 years after the original 1993 film. The film opened during school's winter break when Karen Mitchell (Judy Greer) sent her two young sons: older teenaged brother Zachary "Zach" Mitchell (Nick Robinson) and younger Gray Mitchell (Ty Simpkins), to visit their Aunt Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard), the operations manager of Jurassic World. One of the park's newest attractions was a huge transgenic-hybrid dinosaur known as "Indominus Rex." The owner of the park - CEO Simon Masrani (Irrfan Khan) instructed Claire to send Owen Grady (Chris Pratt), a Navy SEAL and velociraptor expert in the behavioral-sciene facility at the park, to inspect the anti-social and more dangerous Indominus creature housed in a fortifed enclosure. Once the Indominus escaped, using its camouflaging and heat-signature techniques, it endangered the park's visitors as it went on a killing spree. The tourists were evacuated while initial efforts by Masrani and his security team lethally failed to stop the monstrous Rex. Pterosaurs escaped from the aviary, causing increased havoc. Vic Hoskins (Vincent D'Onofrio), head of InGen security, strategized that the velociraptors could be weaponized to destroy the rampaging Indominus, an idea initially opposed by Owen but now used as the last resort to save the park.

Mad Max: Fury Road (2015, Australia/US), 120 minutes, D: George Miller
As in all the previous three installments of the Mad Max franchise, the setting for this reboot about survival was a post-apocalyptic desert wasteland (after nuclear war) where two scarce commodities (water and petrol) continued to be in constant demand. The main surviving protagonist, loner-drifter Max Rockatansky (Tom Hardy), was imprisoned by evil, despotic, grotesquely face-masked cult leader Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne) and his army of deranged, albino War Boys, and taken to Joe's Citadel. At the same time, one of Joe's lieutenants, a war-rig operator/driver named Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron), was sent out on a mission in an armored tanker-truck ("War Rig") to nearby Gas Town to collect gasoline and ammunition. However, Furiosa betrayed Joe by kidnapping five of his 'breeding' brides and taking flight. A violent, non-stop chase sequence ensued, with Joe's army (with Max strapped to the front of Nux's (Nicholas Hoult) vehicle while providing an IV blood-bank drip to the ailing Nux) in swift pursuit of Furiosa. After escaping from Nux, Max joined forces with Furiosa (and the five wives) and her "War Rig" - and the group sought to locate Furiosa's idyllic childhood home known as the Green Place, but it was uninhabitable. They were forced to turn around and head straight back to Joe's Citadel, setting off another long chase sequence, for an ultimate confrontation.

The Martian (2015, US/UK), 144 minutes, D: Ridley Scott
Director Ridley Scott's sci-fi space thriller was based upon Andy Weir's 2011 best-selling novel of the same name. The film's prominent tagline: "BRING HIM HOME" spotlighted the story's major dilemma: astronaut and botany specialist Mark Watney (Matt Damon) was part of NASA's manned Ares 3 mission in the year 2035 to explore the planet of Mars and collect soil samples. While exploring the planet's surface, a severe dust storm had stranded Watney from his crew, and he was presumed dead and left behind when they made an emergency evacuation and lifted off the surface in their MAV (Mars Ascent Vehicle) to return to their orbiting vessel, the Hermes. Although injured, Watney recovered but faced overwhelming odds - he had no communications equipment, and his only means of survival was to ration and grow food and create water in a makeshift greenhouse inside the crew's left-behind surface habitat (or "Hab"). Meanwhile back on Earth, Mindy Park (Mackenzie Davis), one of NASA's satellite analysts at Mission Control, suspected correctly that Watney had survived. Watney was forced to struggle with basic survival, while there were valiant efforts to return him to Earth, when NASA jointly worked with JPL (Jet Propulsion Laboratory) to devise creative (but highly risky) solutions to rescue him and bring him home. It was ultimately decided to have the returning Ares 3 crew, commanded by Melissa Lewis (Jessica Chastain), change course and return to Mars by using Earth's gravity to orbitally "slingshot" back to Mars.

Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation (2015), 131 minutes, D: Christopher McQuarrie
This was the 5th installment-sequel of the long-running, glamorized, spy-related MI series-franchise, again starring Tom Cruise as heroic, hot-shot, globe-trotting IMF agent Ethan Hunt. The adenalized, slick film filled with death-defying set-pieces opened with the dissolution of the IMF (Impossible Mission Force) after CIA Chief Director Alan Hunley (Alec Baldwin) convinced the Senate to disband the organization due to its reckless, questionable, and dangerous abandon. Refusing to be subdued, Ethan Hunt personally struck out on his own as a fugitive and under-cover rogue agent on the run from the CIA, to prove (and to stop) the activities of a sinister, international terrorist counter-organization of other rogue mercenary agents (ex-spies) known as the Syndicate. Although kept apart from his own close IMF team members, friends, and allies including William Brandt (Jeremy Renner), Luther Stickell (Ving Rhames), and Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg), he employed their needed assistance in order to stop the leader of the Syndicate organization, ex-MI6 agent Solomon Lane (Sean Harris), and a second mysterious and alluring British spy and empowered Syndicate operative named Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson). Her intentions remained unclear (was she a double-agent, or just involved for her own selfish interests?).

The Revenant (2015), 156 minutes, D: Alejandro González Iñárritu
The title word "revenant" referred to a French term for a person who returned or came back after a death or long absence. In this violent, epic revenge western set in the year 1823, the camp site of Captain Henry's (Domhnall Gleeson) pelt and fur-trapping expedition, led by experienced frontier explorer Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) in the present-day Dakotas, was brutally attacked by a group of Native-American Indians (from the Arikara tribe). The Indians were on the war path to locate the Chief's abducted daughter, Powaqa (Melaw Nakehk'o). With his teenaged half-Indian son Hawk (Forrest Goodluck) - fathered by his deceased Pawnee wife, Glass led the few surviving members of the group to the safety of a trading post known as Fort Kiowa. Afterwards while out hunting game, Glass was brutally mauled by a grizzly bear and left with a broken leg. He was put into the care of trapper John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy), Jim Bridger (Will Poulter), and his son Hawk. The threesome planned to remain with Glass until he died, so that he could be decently buried. The selfish and roughneck Fitzgerald, who was attempting to mercy-kill Glass by smothering, was forced to stab Hawk to death in the abdomen when the boy tried to stop him. Then, Fitzgerald convinced Bridger (who didn't know about Hawk's murder) to leave Glass to die, due to a falsely-alleged an imminent Ree Indian attack. Glass was left unarmed, stranded and half-buried alive in a shallow, makeshift grave. Back at the fort, Fitzgerald falsely reported that Glass had died and that Hawk had vanished. The remainder of the extended story was Glass' struggle to survive in the wilderness, regain his strength and heal, and then to seek Fitzgerald for depraved and compensatory revenge. Rather than killing Fitzgerald himself, Glass let him float downstream in a river - directly into the hands of the Arikara who scalped him, in retaliation for Powaqa's abduction and rape by other whites.

Room (2015, Ire./Canada), 118 minutes, D: Lenny Abrahamson
Adapted from Emma Donoghue's 2010 novel of the same name, this extremely-emotional and difficult-to-watch drama followed the ghastly and prolonged 7 year-long kidnapping situation faced by precocious 5-year-old Jack (Jacob Tremblay) and his mother or "Ma" - 24-year-old Joy Newsome (Brie Larson). The incarcerated mother and son were both held and enclosed in a single 'Room' in a backyard shed in Akron, OH, where Jack had been born in captivity. Their sadistic and psychopathic kidnapper who held them captive for years, known only as "Old Nick" (Sean Bridgers), was Jack's biological father, and continued to periodically rape Joy during regular nocturnal visits. Both suffered from malnutrition and depression, since they were secluded in a small shared space with only one skylight as a window. The cloistered, socially-repressed and sheltered Jack was led to believe by his "Ma" that they weren't captives, and that the world they read about in books or saw on television were only fantasies. In a very tense sequence, "Ma" created an opportunity to allow Jack to daringly escape (by faking his death) in order to break away from their captor. But now that they were traumatically inserted back in society's 'real-world,' would the co-dependent two be able to adjust, adapt and cope with their vast new challenges and overwhelming freedoms?

Sicario (2015), 121 minutes, D: Denis Villeneuve
The dramatic and gritty film's title "Sicario" meant 'hit man' in Spanish. In the action-crime thriller, idealistic FBI agent Kate Macer (Emily Blunt) was recruited to be a member of a black-ops law enforcement task force in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico (across from El Paso, TX) - a dangerous section of the US-Mexico border known for activities of ruthless Mexican drug cartels, traffickers and kingpins. She volunteered to work in the government's anti-drug task force after a booby-trapped bomb turned deadly during her raid on a cartel safe-house in Chandler, AZ near Phoenix. Her new drug-fighting unit was directed by CIA officer Matt Graver (Josh Brolin) working for the Defense Dept., and her immediate boss was Dave Jennings (Victor Garber), while she was partnered with rookie teammate Reggie Wayne (Daniel Kaluuya). They were aided by a mysterious and secretive cartel defector - an enforcer-assassin named Alejandro Gillick (Benicio Del Toro), who had detailed knowledge of the cartel's organization. Their main targets were senior members of a Sonora drug cartel, including its powerful head Manuel Díaz (Bernardo Saracino), his second in command Guillermo Díaz (Edgar Arreola), Manuel's brother, and elusive drug lord Fausto Alarcón (Julio Cesar Cedillo). Kate's initial idealism was tempered after she witnessed tremendous brutality and life-threatening situations, and she came to the realization that she was only a small part of a much larger and questionable plan. She began to see that her team's methods were ethically unconventional, unorthodox, and often illegal. And she learned that the CIA's ultimate motive was to eliminate all of the Mexican drug cartels so that the US could more easily control drug-trade if the Colombians were the only threat.

Spectre (2015, UK/US), 148 minutes, D: Sam Mendes
The 24th film in the long-running series-franchise, and a direct sequel to the events that transpired in Skyfall (2012). In the plot, rogue 007 agent James Bond (Daniel Craig in his fourth film) was still seeking revenge for the death of M (Judi Dench), his former mentor. He went on an unauthorized mission to Mexico City to kill mysterious Italian terrorist mobster/assassin Marco Sciarra. After being temporarily removed from duty by a new M (Gareth Mallory) (Ralph Fiennes), he followed a trail to Rome to meet with the dead man's widow Lucia Sciarra (Monica Bellucci). After infiltrating a secret meeting, Bond uncovered the existence of a sinister, global criminal organization known as SPECTRE (SPecial Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion), created and led by Franz Oberhauser (aka mastermind Ernst Stavro Blofeld) (Christoph Waltz), who was promoting worldwide terrorist attacks. An exciting car chase through Rome occurred between SPECTRE assassin Mr. Hinx (Dave Bautista) and Bond. In Austria, Bond met with poisoned and dying Mr. White (Jesper Christensen) - once a member of a SPECTRE subsidiary, who suggested a meeting with his daughter, Dr. Madeleine Swann (Léa Seydoux), before he committed suicide. After a chase on the Austrian slopes where Swann was kidnapped by Hinx, she helped lead Bond to SPECTRE - located in Morocco, where they again fought off Hinx on a moving train on their way to SPECTRE's headquarters in the Saharan Desert. Devious British agent Max Denbigh (Andrew Scott) (code-named C) was revealed to be working in London with SPECTRE (while setting up a "Nine Eyes" surveillance program that would eliminate Bond's division). After confronting Blofeld in his base, Swann and Bond blew up Blofeld's headquarters and fled to London, to prevent Nine Eyes from going online. In the conclusion, Bond once again rescued Swann who was threatened to die in an old MI6 building, and defeated a seriously-injured Blofeld (fleeing in a helicopter that crashed), who was subsequently arrested by M.

Spotlight (2015), 128 minutes, D: Tom McCarthy
This true-to-life biographical docu-drama, a thought-provoking Best Picture winning film, was titled to reference The Boston Globe's select, trail-blazing 'Spotlight' team - the oldest continuously-operating newspaper journalist unit in the US. The elite team's investigative articles were published in 2002 (and awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 2003), after it thoroughly looked into a widespread pattern of systemic child sex abuse allegations against some of Boston's Roman Catholic priests. The newspaper's new editor-in-chief Marty Baron (Liev Schreiber), met with 'Spotlight's' editorial supervisor Walter "Robby" Robinson (Michael Keaton), who was in charge of the Globe's internal team of reporters, including Michael Rezendes (Mark Ruffalo), Sacha Pfeiffer (Rachel McAdams), and Matty Carroll (Brian d'Arcy James). The team also coordinated their work with lawyer Mitchell Garabedian (Stanley Tucci). During research and case work through interviews with abuse victims, the reporters produced an extensive exposé that revealed an ongoing, willful cover-up by the Boston Archdiocese and its Archbishop Cardinal Bernard Francis Law (Len Cariou). He had systematically ignored and buried decades-old, multiple instances of corruption and abuse by priests in the Boston area, before he was promoted to a Basilica in Rome.

Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens (2015), 135 minutes, D: J.J. Abrams
This 7th installment in the popular sci-fi series-franchise served as the first part of a sequel trilogy of more epic Star Wars films (Episodes VII, VIII and IX) - the reboot was released 32 years after its immediate chronological predecessor, Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi (1983). The setting was 30 years after the defeat of the Galactic Empire, portrayed in Return of the Jedi. The galaxy was still at war, pitting the New Republic (and its Resistance fighters) - led by General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher) against the villainous forces of the First Order, successors of the Galactic Empire. Meanwhile, Leia's twin brother Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), the last Jedi, had vanished and gone into hiding. The militarized, fascistic First Order was led by dark, masked Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) and villainous General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson), the commander of the Starkiller base. In the film's opening on the junk planet of Jakku, brave Resistance X-wing fighter pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) was captured, although his droid BB-8 was able to escape with a secret map to Skywalker's whereabouts. Disillusioned and rogue First Order stormtrooper FN-2187 (later renamed Finn (John Boyega)) changed sides and freed Poe, before they both fled in a stolen TIE fighter. Ultimately, desert-dwelling young scavenger Rey (Daisy Ridley) (who was protecting BB-8) teamed up with Finn, and they stole the smuggling duo Han Solo's (Harrison Ford) and Wookiee Chewbacca's (Peter Mayhew) old Millennium Falcon to escape. Members of the Resistance (including Solo and Chewbacca after their return) worked together to protect the droid and take it back to their leader General Leia Organa. While Han was attempting to destroy the Starkiller base with explosives, Kylo (the son of Han and Leia, and Luke's nephew) confronted his father and killed him. Afterwards, Poe was able to attack and destroy the base's thermal oscillator, and the Resistance forces successfully fled just before the Starkiller Base imploded. The final image was of Luke - located by Rey on a cliffside, island hilltop on the oceanic planet of Ahch-To.

Steve Jobs (2015), 122 minutes, D: Danny Boyle
Aaron Sorkin's adapted screenplay for this dramatic R-rated biopic of the life of computer genius and Apple co-founder Steve Jobs (portrayed by Michael Fassbender) was adapted from Walter Isaacson's 2011 biography, composed of Sorkin's interviews over a 14 year period (1984-1998). There were a number of key events (and evidences of Jobs' personal flaws) that were covered in the account: the unveiling of the Macintosh computer (128K) in a 1984 product launch, his ongoing paternity lawsuit dispute and reconciliation with his ex-girlfriend Chrisann Brennan (Katherine Waterston) over his young (and illegitimate) daughter Lisa Brennan-Jobs (various actresses from age 5-19), the 1988 founding of a new company and product - the NeXT Computer workstation, his collaborations with his long-time trusted confidant - NeXT marketing executive Joanna Hoffman (Kate Winslet), his dealings with Apple co-founder and Apple II creator Steve Wozniak (Seth Rogan), Jobs' replacement in 1985 as Apple CEO by John Sculley (Jeff Daniels), Apple's 1997 acquisition of NeXT and Jobs' reappointment as CEO of Apple, and finally, the launching of the iMac in 1998.

Straight Outta Compton (2015), 147 minutes, D: F. Gary Gray
A combination biopic and musical drama, this R-rated film was set in a racially-turbulent Los Angeles, CA in the mid-1980s, when Hip Hop and its culture began to permeate into society. It followed the rise (and fall) of an aspiring, incendiary gangsta rap group known as N.W.A. in the South Central neighborhood of Compton, featuring three main members: drug-dealing Eric "Eazy-E" Wright (Jason Mitchell), rapper O'Shea "Ice Cube" Jackson (son O'Shea Jackson, Jr.) known for composing the group's memorable lyrics, and DJ Andre "Dr. Dre" Young (Corey Hawkins). Their shows caught the attention of music manager Jerry Heller (Paul Giamatti), who helped to get the group established and known through record deals. The film was named for NWA's popular debut album "Straight Outta Compton" released in 1988, with the fiery song " F--k tha Police." After attaining stardom and visibility, the controversial group became known as "The World's Most Dangerous Group" for their brash style, vulgar lyrics, and in-your-face "reality rap" (about issues facing the African-American community). The group soon dissolved due to money disputes, opposition from law enforcement, and the desire of some members to go solo.

Tangerine (2015), 88 minutes, D: Sean Baker
This low-budget dramedy with non-professional actors told about outcast, misunderstood transgender individuals. It was notable for being filmed with three iPhone 5S smartphones to create realistic immediacy. It was the story of transgender sex worker Sin-Dee Rella (Kitana Kiki Rodriguez) who - in the film's opening - was released in Tinseltown (West Hollywood) at Christmas-time after a 28 day-long prison sentence for drug possession. At a 24 hour Donut Time shop, she learned from fellow trans-gender sex worker Alexandra (Mya Taylor) that Sin-Dee's fiancee/boyfriend/pimp and drug-dealing Chester (James Ransone) had recently been cheating on her with a female Caucasian prostitute (one with "a vagina and everything" - known as a cisfemale). During a raging and vengeful search in the Santa Monica and Highland neighborhoods, the jealously-furious Sin-Dee dragged Dinah (Mickey O'Hagan) out of Madam Jillian's (Chelcie Lynn) motel bordello, and with Alexandra, brought Dinah to the donut shop to confront Chester in a show-down. But then Chester shockingly confessed that Alexandra was also sleeping with him. Hurt by the betrayal of her best friend, Sin-Dee departed and attempted to pick up male clients, but they threw urine at her and drove away while yelling out trans-phobic insults at her. The film concluded with Alexandra helping Sin-Dee to clean up in a laundromat. Knowing that Sin-Dee felt uncomfortable without her wig (while it was being laundered), Alexandra removed her own wig to lend it to her, and the two reconciled - a true representation of the Christmas spirit. A concurrent side-story told about married Armenian cab driver Ramzik (Karren Karagulian) who was a frequent client of the male 'girls' - a secret that was discovered by his nagging mother-in-law Ashken (Alla Tumanian) and Ramzik's wife Yeva (Luiza Nersisyan).

Trumbo (2015), 124 minutes, D: Jay Roach
In this smart biographical drama set between the late 1940s and early 1960s, the title character referred to well-respected and famous elite Hollywood screenwriter Dalton Trumbo (Bryan Cranston). The biopic was based on Bruce Alexander Cook's 1977 biography of the beleaguered writer. When it was rumored that Trumbo had past affiliations with the Communist Party, he was hauled before the HUAC (the House Un-American Activities Committee) during the McCarthy Era. Along with many others, he was questioned during a rampant period of "witch hunts," and faced contempt of Congress charges for refusing to answer to false accusations, and to bend to prejudicial questions about Communist propaganda in films. He was accused of being a 'Communist sympathizer' and arrested with nine other colleagues - all of the "Hollywood Ten" faced blacklisting - literally, the end of their careers, and Trumbo also served almost a year of jail time in 1950. Afterwards, Trumbo secretly penned the screenplay for the popular romantic comedy Roman Holiday (1953), and his friend Ian McLellan Hunter (Alan Tudyk) acted as a pseudonym "front" - Hunter's name was listed as the credited screenwriter and he received the Best Story Academy Award for Trumbo's work. The film also surveyed the domestic conflict that Trumbo's marriage suffered in his relationship with his wife Cleo Fincher Trumbo (Diane Lane), his family, and his friends. Trumbo also wrote the Oscar-winning, original story screenplay (with the pseudonym Robert Rich) for the King Brothers' film The Brave One (1953). By the early 1960s, Trumbo's genius became evident and he was vindicated when he openly wrote the screenplays for actor/producer Kirk Douglas' and director Stanley Kubrick's epic slave revolt film Spartacus (1960), and for director Otto Preminger's Zionist epic Exodus (1960).

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