Film Review: Top Gun: Maverick (dir. by Joseph Kosinski)


From the moment it was announced, I had low expectations for Top Gun: Maverick. I figured it was just Tom Cruise milking his other franchise for what it’s worth. I mean, I adore the Mission: Impossible movies, but was there ever really a need to return to the Top Gun Universe? I didn’t believe so, particularly with Joseph Kosinski being involved. I enjoyed Oblivion and I’ll die on the hill that is Tron: Legacy, but also recognize that Tron: Legacy could have been a better film if the writers just didn’t paste the original film and wipe it down with a new coat of paint. I think I may have incorrectly put that on Kosinski, rather than the writers.

Top Gun: Maverick does pretty much the same thing here. If you’ve seen the original Top Gun, you already have the blueprint for the sequel in your head. You could play both films side by side, and not counting for the pacing between them, align each scene with the sequel’s counterpart. Does that even make for a sequel? Did we learn nothing from Star Wars: The Force Awakens?

I don’t know. I didn’t hate Top Gun: Maverick at all. It’s just that odd feeling at having seen it all before and almost completely guessing what’s going to happen next. If you can get past that, it’s a good film. By the end of the movie, I wanted to buy a computer, a Thrustmaster HOTAS set and a copy of DCS to fly with.

Top Gun: Maverick continues the story of ace fighter pilot Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, once the 2nd Best at Top Gun. Now testing special aircraft, he lands himself into trouble again with the Navy, only to be sent back to Top Gun. Yes, he was an instructor there and this new film references this. However, Maverick’s return has him training a team of elite pilots on a special bombing mission requiring some unorthodox maneuvers. In training the pilots, the best will be declared the mission leader. When Maverick discovers that one of pilots is Brad Bradshaw (Miles Teller, Whiplash), son of his deceased Radar Intercept Officer (RIO) Goose, tensions erupt. Can Maverick get the team to improve and be ready for the mission?

Writing wise, Top Gun: Maverick isn’t bad. It gets in, does the job and gets right back out. No scene is drawn out too far, no storyline angle seems to be mulled on. With two main writers and three screenplay writers (including Mission: Impossible‘s Christopher McQuarrie), it’s pretty tight. Again, there’s the problem of using the same story map as the original. There doesn’t appear to be many obstacles for them to hurdle, storywise. Like Underwater, having so many familiar sites and scenes helps. What I did like was that it didn’t point many fingers at any one place. The opposing fighters are “5th Gen” craft, but you don’t really get any kind of feeling of where they’re from. Were they Russian? Serbian? Chinese? Canadian? Unless I missed something in the watch, I didn’t catch who the enemy was. They were just men in planes with missiles and guns.

I liked the cast here. Jon Hamm (Tag)makes for a good opponent to Cruise, and they have good scenes together. There’s also something of a love story to the film, though it’s light. While it would have been cool to have Kelly McGinnis back, Jennifer Connelly (Alita: Battle Angel) made for a good replacement and her character’s okay. For the young pilots, I particularly liked Lewis Pullman’s (Bad Times at the El Royale) Bob and Monica Barbero (NBCs Chicago Justice) Phoenix, along with Glen Powell’s (Everybody Wants Some!) Hangman. Each one brought some style and attitude to the mix.

By far the best entry here is Val Kilmer’s return as Tom “Iceman” Kazansky. The story was written in a way to include his issues with speech, given his cancer diagnosis. He honestly has one of most memorable moments in the film, and I loved how they tied his character back to Maverick’s. I have to give some kudos to Cruise, Kilmer and company for that. If there’s any other reason to see the film other than the planes, that was it.

Oh, the flight and fight scenes! Goodness, what a treat! I usually sit in the front row, where no one ever sits. Since the Regal RPX screen is huge (but not Lincoln Center IMAX beastly), that first row is some distance away. The sense of speed was cool and there were some fantastic shots both in cockpit and out, which had me leaning in my seat with the action with every hard left and right. While I’ve always been more of a fan of the F-14 Tomcat used in the original, there is a legitimate reason for the team to have to use the F-18 Hornet. While the main mission feels a lot like the trench run from Star Wars: A New Hope, it’s a great sequence overall. Watching Maverick make a plane dance is a sight to behold, and there is at least one scene in the film that contained an awesome thrust vectoring moment. Think of thrust vectoring like drifting a plane in midair the way you would drift a car in a turn. It’s hard to describe, but beautiful when seen.

Musically, I don’t have much to say. While Lorne Balfe (Mission: Impossible – Fallout), Hans Zimmer (Dune), Harold Faltermeyer (Top Gun) and Lady Gaga (House of Gucci) all worked on this, I can’t say that any tune other than the original Top Gun Anthem really stood out for me. Not a terrible thing at all, just not extremely memorable. At least with Fallout, I was humming the 2nd half of “Stairs and Rooftops” until I bought the album. Gaga’s “Hold My Hand” is a great piece and ties in pretty well to where it’s used.

Overall, Top Gun: Maverick is a treat, and was better than I expected. It gets a little heavy handed at following the same path of the original, the but the new story is enjoyable enough to have it stand out on it own.

Ethan Hunt returns in the Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One Teaser!


Holy Cow! On Twitter, Christopher McQuarrie dropped the teaser trailer for Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning – Part One and there’s just so much to unpack here. Lorne Balfe reunites with McQuarrie on the score and I’m loving the piece that plays in this trailer. It looks like almost everyone from Mission: Impossible Fallout are back, and some new faces are present with Haley Atwell joining the fray. It’s also interesting to see Henry Czerny back in the mix. If the Fast and Furious movies have taught us anything, it’s that you can always find a use for a character you thought you shelved. Wow, it’s just a teaser, and it’s only Part One! I’m pretty excited for this.

Ghostface returns in the new Scream trailer!


From the directors of Ready or Not comes yet another chapter in Wes Craven’s Scream series. I’ll admit I’m liking the cast in this one. We have Melissa Barerra (In the Heights), Jenna Ortega (Yes Day), Dylan Minnette (30 Reasons Why), Jack Quaid (The Boys), Marley Shelton (Planet Terror), Kyle Gallner (Jennifer’s Body), and Mikey Madison (Once Upon a Time…In Hollywood)

Then you have the returning cast, which includes Neve Campbell, Courtney Cox and David Arquette. Most importantly, it appears that Roger L. Jackson is voicing the Ghostface again! On a side note, Jackson was also responsible for Mojo Jojo’s voice in The Powerpuff Girls. (“Curses!”)

January movies don’t always do very well, but we’ll see what happens with this one.

Scream releases in cinemas on January 14th, 2022.

Love and Monsters (dir. by Michael Matthews)


love-and-monsters-movie-posterDylan O’Brien is one of those actors that I’ll run to watch anything they’re in. I did so for 2017’s American Assassin, and have been making my way through MTV’s Teen Wolf. The guy oozes charisma, so when I found out his latest film, Love and Monsters, was available both in theatres and on Demand, I scooped it up without blinking.  It’s kind of ironic that both he and his Teen Wolf co star, Tyler Posey, both have films this month (Posey is in Alone, also on demand) where their characters are caught up in apocalyptic nightmares.

Love and Monsters is a lighthearted monster film about stepping out of one’s shell, making some mistakes and growing along the way. O’Brien carries the film with humor and action, along with help from the supporting cast.  It’s still a monster story, but it’s one just about anyone but the youngest of viewers can watch (and even then, it should be okay).

Sometimes, you just have to come out of your shell, which really isn’t easy to do when the world is suddenly populated with giant creatures. Joel (Dylan O’Brien, American Assassin) loves Aimee (Jessica Henwick , Underwater), but they happen to be separated in underground colonies about 90 miles from each other. Everyone manages to survive in their own way, and going up to the surface is particularly dangerous when everything wants to eat you.  Joel does the small work around the underground bunker he’s in – making Minestrone, cleaning up the place – because he can’t handle the monsters outside.. When Joel decides to make the trek to reach Aimee, he has to learn how to survive in a world where everything wants to eat you. Befriended by a dog, Joel meets some friends along the way. Love and Monsters is a near perfect fit for the post Quarantine world. It speaks of isolation, communication over distances, while still hitting some themes on taking some risks (calculated, when possible), and learning to trust one’s instincts.

Love-and-Monsters-Boy and his Dog

Joel (Dylan O’Brien) and Boy (Hero the Dog) navigate the unknown in Love and Monsters. 

The cast for Love and Monsters is so nice. In addition to O’Brien and Henwick, we have a pair of Marvel Alumni in Michael Rooker (Yondu in Guardians of the Galaxy), and Ariana Greenblatt (Little Gamora in Avengers: Infinity War) as Clyde and Minnow, respectively. They help to add to the comedy that O’Brien’s already offering.

I think what surprised me the most about Love and Monsters was the look of the monsters themselves. I was expecting something more along the lines of your typical Syfy channel movie fare. The CGI and monster effects in Love and Monsters are pretty good. I would have liked to have seen more monsters, but I really enjoyed it what was offered. Marco Beltrami and Marcus Trumpp also get some kudos for the soundtrack, having worked with Wes Craven and Guillermo Del Toro in the past. The theme for Love and Monsters has a pinch of Hellboy to it, and fits well to Joel and Boy’s (Hero the Dog) adventures.

If there are any problems with the film, I guess it would be that it moves a little faster than anticipated. That’s hardly a complaint. At about an hour and 50 minutes, it moves somewhat fast. Additionally, if anyone’s expecting a full fledged horror film, they might be a bit disappointed. It’s a comedy first, with monsters. As long as you’re not expecting serious horror, it’s great, but the film does have it’s moments of little jumpscares. There’s also the notion that if you’ve already watched How to Train Your Dragon or Zombieland, Love and Monsters might not feel entirely new. It does, however, manage to take what’s going in the world right now with social distancing and reference it without directly saying it has anything to do with it. I feel audiences might relate to Joel’s isolation from that aspect, and his journey based on any trial we’ve ever gone through in learning a new skill or stepping outside of our comfort zones.

Love and Monsters is a cute surprise of a film that might have you chuckling more than jumping around in your seat, but that’s okay. At least it’s entertaining. I really wouldn’t mind a sequel to this.

The 2nd Top Gun: Maverick Trailer


Paramount Pictures released the 2nd trailer for Top Gun: Maverick, starring Tom Cruise and Miles Teller. In this trailer, we get not only F-18 Hornets, but the classic F-14 Tomcats, and what also looks to be perhaps a stealth plane, perhaps. This film has Maverick training some new aviators with some classic moves.

Top Gun: Maverick, directed by Oblivion and Tron Legacy’s Joseph Kosinski, opens in cinemas on June 26, 2020.

Sonic gets a makeover in the 2nd Sonic the Hedgehog Trailer


Earlier in the year, when Paramount released the trailer for the Sonic The Hedgehog movie, audiences were up in arms over Sonic’s look. It was so bad that the production team shelved the film for a bit and reworked the CGI. Six months later, we have a vastly improved Hedgehog, and everything appears to be looking better for the film. The character has more expressive eyes, the classic sneakers and what seems like a new voiceover.

Now we just have to hope that all of that extra work by the effects team is rewarded by moviegoers when the film comes out. Here’s hoping, anyway.

Sonic the Hedgehog, starring Jim Carrey, James Marsden and Ben Schwartz as the voice of Sonic, premieres in time for Valentine’s Day of 2020.

Halloween Havoc!: ISLAND OF LOST SOULS (Paramount 1932)


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Universal Pictures kicked off the horror trend of the early 30’s with DRACULA and FRANKENSTEIN , and soon every studio in Hollywood, both major and minor, jumped on the terror train. Paramount was the first to hop on board with an adaptation of Stevenson’s DR. JEKYLL & MR. HYDE , earning Fredric March an Oscar for his dual role. Soon there was DR. X (Warners), THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME (RKO), FREAKS and THE MASK OF FU MANCHU (both MGM), and THE MONSTER WALKS and WHITE ZOMBIE from the indies. Paramount released ISLAND OF LOST SOULS at the end of 1932, a film so shocking and perverse it was banned in Britain for over a quarter century, and still manages to frighten even the most jaded of horror fans today.

Based on the novel The Island of Dr. Moreau by H.G. Wells, the film begins with shipwrecked Edward Parker being rescued…

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Bang, You’re Dead!: Charles Bronson in DEATH WISH (Paramount 1974)


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Most people think of DEATH WISH as just another 70’s revenge/exploitation flick, right? Nope. Far from it. Sure, there’s loads of graphic violence, but this gem of a movie contains just as much political commentary as ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN, with an added dose of black comedy to boot. The film had its finger firmly placed on the pulse of 1970’s America, with all its fear and paranoia about rampant urban crime, and is among the decade’s best.

Director Michael Winner and star Charles Bronson had made three films together up to that time: the revisionist Western CHATO’S LAND, the actioner THE MECHANIC , and the cops-vs-Mafia drama THE STONE KILLER . All were hits with the drive-in crowd, and helped Bronson go from supporting player to major star. Strangely enough, Bronson wasn’t the first actor considered for the part of Paul Kersey. Jack Lemmon was original choice, and that…

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Pre Code Confidential #27: Mae West in SHE DONE HIM WRONG (Paramount 1933)


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Bawdy Mae West had scandalized Broadway with her risque humor, and struggling Paramount Pictures snapped her to a movie deal. Her first was a supporting part in 1932’s NIGHT AFTER NIGHT, where she was allowed to rewrite her own dialog, and stole the show by purring sexually charged lines like “Goodness had nothing to do with it, dearie”. Mae’s presence helped refill Paramount’s coffers, and raised the hackles of censorship boards across America. It wasn’t long until the Production Code became strictly enforced, thanks in large part to Mae, but before then, she was given the spotlight in 1933’s SHE DONE HIM WRONG, based somewhat on her stage success DIAMOND LIL.

Like the play, SHE DONE HIM WRONG is set in The Bowery during the 1890’s, but here Diamond Lil is called Lady Lou, because the censors wanted to whitewash all vestiges of the ribald play. Diamond Lil or Lady…

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Jack in the Saddle: BUCK BENNY RIDES AGAIN (Paramount 1940)


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The gang’s all here in BUCK BENNY RIDES AGAIN – Jack Benny’s radio gang, that is! Eddie “Rochester” Anderson, announcer Don Wilson, band leader Phil Harris, comic actor Andy Devine, and crooner Dennis Day all show up for this fun-filled musical comedy romp directed by Mark Sandrich. Even Jack’s radio nemesis Fred Allen is heard (though not seen) cracking jokes at his rival’s expense!

The movie plays like an extended sketch from one of Jack’s radio or TV programs, as the vain Jack falls for pretty Joan Cameron (Ellen Drew), one of a trio of singing sisters (the other two are Virginia Dale and Lillian Cornell) trying to break into show biz. They “meet cute” when Jack accidentally smashes into Joan’s taxi. Jack keeps flubbing his chances with Joan, who only goes for manly, rugged Western types (“I wouldn’t go out with him if he drove up in a sleigh…

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