BY VINCENT ABBATECOLA
10) Creed – Almost 40 years after the release of “Rocky,” it was difficult to imagine a sixth sequel that focused on Apollo Creed’s son would work. But, sometimes, it feels good to be wrong. Taking place in 2015, the story follows Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan) who moves from Los Angeles to Philadelphia to start his journey in becoming a professional boxer, and asks Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) to help him train. Just like “Raging Bull,” “Million Dollar Baby,” and “The Fighter,” this film captures the brutality of the sport and all of the determination for greatness that goes along with it. Jordan delivers a performance loaded with grit and heart, Stallone slips back into his iconic character as if he never left, and Tessa Thompson is luminous as Adonis’ musician girlfriend. After director Ryan Coogler’s success with 2013’s “Fruitvale Station” and now “Creed,” he is a filmmaker to keep an eye on. With endearing performances, a story that honors the original “Rocky,” and expertly choreographed boxing sequences, Coogler delivers a film that doesn’t waste a single punch.
9) Steve Jobs – All movies begin with a screenplay, and if it’s one written by Aaron Sorkin, all you have to do is find the right director and actors, and then everything else will fall into place, such is what happened with Danny Boyle’s biopic on tech innovator Steve Jobs, played magnificently by Michael Fassbender. However, this isn’t your typical biopic, because instead of focusing on Jobs’ life as a whole, the story occurs backstage during the prep for three product launches. Seeing the cast dive into Sorkin’s dialogue is intoxicating to watch, and his words never fail to bring out the best in the actors who speak them. When you add Danny Boyle’s experienced direction, Fassbender’s commanding presence, and superb supporting performances from Kate Winslet, Seth Rogen, and Jeff Daniels, among others, you have a film that scorches the screen.
8) Bridge of Spies – Despite directing movies for over four decades, Steven Spielberg hasn’t lost a drop of his talent as a filmmaker, as we can see with this absorbing Cold War thriller. Tom Hanks portrays James B. Donovan, an insurance lawyer tasked with defending prosecuted Soviet spy Rudolf Abel (Mark Rylance) in court. Donovan then has to travel to Berlin to set up an exchange where he will trade Abel for an American pilot who has been captured by the Soviet Union. This is a film that thrives on intrigue, tension, intricacy, and the bond between Hanks’ and Rylance’s characters, all of which blend together for a film that’s as intelligent as it is entertaining. Right from the opening scene, Spielberg sets the espionage mood that instantly hooks us throughout the movie, and we are reminded why he is one of the most accomplished directors to ever work in cinema.
7) Room – Based on the stunning and heart-rending novel by Emma Donoghue, who also wrote the film’s screenplay, the story follows a mother named Joy (Brie Larson) who is kidnapped at 17, and her 5-year-old son Jack (Jacob Tremblay), the latter of whom has spent his entire life with his mother in a shed in the backyard of their captor. Once they are free, Joy will have to learn how to re-adjust to the world, while guiding her son as he begins life anew in a world he has never seen before. Emotional parent-child relationships aren’t hard to come by in film, but the one displayed by Larson and Tremblay hits you square in the heart. The pair beautifully captures the novel’s essence of the bond between the two characters, showing how even the most unthinkable circumstances can’t damage the love between the mother and son at the center of the film. Donoghue succeeds in translating the spirit of her novel for the screen, and director Lenny Abrahamson taps into the heartbreak, desperation, and tenderness in the scenario at hand, all in a film that I urge you to experience.
6) Mad Max: Fury Road – Who would have thought the third sequel in director George Miller’s long-dormant franchise would end up being this entertaining, artistic, and exhilarating? It turns out it’s all that, and so, so much more. Tom Hardy steps into the role of Max Rockatansky (originated by Mel Gibson), who gets caught up in a plot to help a rebellious soldier, Furiosa (Charlize Theron), bring a warlord’s five wives to freedom. The film is basically a series of car chases, but they are spectacular. In terms of action, let’s just say by the end of the first third, the dial breaks past 10 and stays there. If you crave a cinematic rush of adrenaline, this is the movie you need in your life. With strong performances and car chases that are ferocious and gorgeously shot, Miller’s unique vision of an apocalyptic future wraps you in its intensity, and you couldn’t ask for a more thrilling two hours at the movies.
Come back next week for part two of my top 10 favorite films of 2015!