Legacy sequel finds Pete “Maverick” Mitchell a test pilot with the navy and still a captain after all these years. Another act of insubordination gets him in trouble again, but old friend Iceman (Val Kilmer), now an admiral, gets him transferred back to Top Gun instead of being court-martialed. What awaits him there is teaching a new batch of ace pilots, including the grown son (Miles Teller) of his friend Goose, how to accomplish a dangerous mission and an old flame (Jennifer Connelly) whose heart he once broke.
Flick, originally slated to be released in 2019, but postponed due to COVID19, is well-directed by Joseph Kosinski from a script by Ehren Kruger, Eric Warren Singer and Christopher McQuarrie based on a story by Peter Craig and Justin Marks. As such, it is literally a perfect way to do one of these legacy sequels, as it pays homage to and continues the story of the original classic yet is also a solidly good movie in its own right. In some ways it is a better flick than the 1986 original with some nice dramatic weight and some killer action scenes in the last act. Sure, it has the cheesy melodrama we expect and is predictable in its soap opera level sub-plots, but it is still a lot of fun and Kosinski knows how to deliver some dynamic action scenes in the climactic third. The aerial dogfights are energetic and exciting and the cast all work well together. Cruise brings a nice maturity to Maverick, Connelley is a spunky love interest as Peggy, Teller is a welcome addition to the mythos as Bradley “Rooster” Bradshaw, and it was nice to see them include Val Kilmer, whose recent health issues have taken priority over his career. In conclusion, everything you would want in a Top Gun movie! Also stars Ed Harris and Jon Hamm.
After the smash success of Paranormal Activity, Oren Peli returned to the director’s chair for his sophomore effort in 2009…and the movie has since languished in post-production hell for the last six years…now we know why. Found footage flick has a silly plot with three young friends (Darrin Bragg, Reid Warner and Ben Rovner) concocting an absurd scheme to break into the infamous Area 51 military base. They have the help of a former employee’s daughter (Jelena Nik) and succeed where many have failed.
Obviously, they are not happy with what they find…and neither are we. Flick takes a ridiculous 70 minutes for anything interesting to happen and at about 95 minutes long (including it’s slow crawl credits) that’s simply too long to wait. What we do get is amusing, but exactly what you’d expect to get in a flick about Area 51 and it’s fleetingly glimpsed and over far too quickly. There is barely anything resembling scares or suspense and what we do finally encounter is very predictable and been done before, especially in the X-Files…and done better. Area 51’s actual secrets may still be a mystery, but why this flick sat for six years and was quietly dumped onto VOD and home media, isn’t.
BURYING THE EX (2014)
Director Joe Dante (The Howling, Gremlins) has made quite a few classic films, which is why it’s disappointing that his latest effort is so sadly mediocre. Story has horror movie fan and slacker Max (Anton Yelchin) dating the hot but extremely bitchy, Evelyn (Ashley Greene), while he could be with the sweet, horror movie-themed-ice-cream-shop owner, Olivia (Alexandra Daddario). The wrong words said in front of the wrong magic item in the shop Max works at, ensures he will be with Evelyn forever…even when she is hit by a bus and killed. Now, as he desperately wants to date Olivia, Max’s girlfriend is back and there’s going to be trouble.
Flick’s problems lie in it’s uninspired and sadly unfunny script by Alan Trezza. Dante tries to give it some life and it is colorful and filled with the horror movie references and imagery Dante excels at, but the script is unimaginative, predictable and let’s Dante down at every turn. The premise has been done before, but still could have made fun use of it’s scenario, instead it is routine and without the wit to really make this a good time. At least Dante get’s good work out of the cast as Yelchin, Greene and Daddario…who is especially endearing as the ultimate horror geek girlfriend fantasy, Olivia…do their best to get something out of their thinly written parts. With a better script this could have been a real treat as it had a great director!
MISSION IMPOSSIBLE: ROGUE NATION (2015)
I originally was not a fan of this series, but to be honest, each installment has been an improvement over the last with this and the previous installment, Ghost Protocol, being a lot of fun. Dare I say this series has finally hit it’s stride with it’s fourth and fifth entries. This chapter finds the IMF being dissolved by the government right in the middle of Ethan Hunt’s (Tom Cruise) mission to track down “The Syndicate”, an organization that is the IMF’s equal, yet dedicated to disruption and terrorism. Now considered a rogue agent and being hunted around the world, Hunt must team with Benji (Simon Pegg), Brandt (Jeremy Renner), Luther (Ving Rhames) and mysterious agent Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson) to bring the syndicate down.
As written and directed by Christopher McQuarrie, Rogue Nation is fast-paced and entertaining with some great camaraderie between Cruise and his team, especially Pegg. There are some fun action sequences and some thrilling escapes with the usual espionage and covert operations mixed in. The only thing holding it back a little, is that the action is nothing out of the ordinary, despite being well-staged and the main villain (Sean Harris) is rather weak. Otherwise this is a fun spy/action flick and Swedish actress Ferguson gets to steal a few scenes from Cruise…which isn’t an easy thing to do. Also stars Alec Baldwin as a CIA thorn in the IMF’s side. Fun!
Edge Of Tomorrow is a completely derivative yet, actually pretty enjoyable Sci-Fi/Action flick starring Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt. The film is based on Hiroshi Sakurazaka’s Manga All You Need Is Kill and tells the story of a not too distant future where an alien invasion force has landed and taken a strong foothold in Europe. The beings called ‘mimics’ seem to anticipate the united armed forces’ every move until a victory in Verdun, France, led by Sergeant Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt), gives the Earth a glimmer of hope that the enemy can be defeated. A U.S. military PR man Major William Cage (Tom Cruise) is brought in to sell the world… though not sure why the world would need to be ‘sold’ when the situation is so dire… on a massive armed attack on the beaches of France by covering the attack from the front-lines to which the cowardly Cage protests and even tries to blackmail his way out of. This gets him arrested and busted down to foot soldier to now to join the invasion in actual combat… where he is killed within minutes. But, Cage wakes up from death the morning before when first being sent to his new squad and relives the day till being killed again… only to awaken 24 hours earlier once more. With full memory of the previous days, he gets better and better at staying alive until he runs into Sgt. Vrataski who knows what’s going on… it’s happened to her too! His encounter with the blood of a special alien drone known as an ‘Alpha’ has given Cage the alien ability to re-set time and now teamed up with “The Angel Of Verdun” Cage must keep dying till the two successfully destroy the hidden alien power source and stop the enemy before all is lost. But, the re-set power is not permanent and one of Cage’s deaths could be his last… if his own forces don’t lock him and Vrataski up for being crazy first.
Sure this flick is a Groundhog Day, Starship Troopers, Battle: Los Angeles, and Aliens thrown in a blender with a bunch of other movies but, under Doug Liman’s direction it’s actually a lot of action-packed fun. The action is staged well and the film moves at a good, steady pace and really avoids becoming the mess it could have been with such a convoluted story. The SPFX are flawless and while the design of the film gives us little new, it is suspenseful and has enough of a sense of humor about itself to get past any familiarity. We also get some likable characters to become endeared to and they are well cast. Sure we may not like the cowardly Cage early on but, the more he grows as a soldier and a person the more we like him and are right there with him when he graduates to full blown hero. The time travel elements are also kept pretty basic and while there are always questions when time travel is concerned, Edge keeps the glaring problems to a minimum by not getting too over enthusiastic with it’s use and while certain story elements will fold under too much scrutiny, the film moves fast enough to keep you from thinking too much about it. Liman also gives us some intensity but, keeps the tone of the film from getting too dark and the mix blends just right to keep things on an entertaining level. The script by Christopher McQuarrie and Jez and John-Henry Butterworth never gets too complicated and is smart enough to change up the formula about half way through to avoid predictability or monotony even though we still have a good idea how things will work out. The only real stand-out flaw is a an ending that is a little too neat and convenient in order to keep this flick a crowd-pleaser but, it’s not bad enough to not go along with it or, seriously hurt the movie.
A big plus is a good cast that perfectly understand the material. Cruise has fun playing a sniveling coward for a while before transforming more into the action hero he is renown for. And once that happens he is as solid as always. Blunt is obviously enjoying being able to play such a badass but, one that doesn’t loose her humanity or femininity. Vrataski is tough but, very likable and sexy and we certainly wouldn’t mind a post battle celebration in her bunk after the war. We also have fan favorite Bill Paxton as a scenery chewing Southern Master Sergeant who leads Cruise’s platoon of misfits into battle over and over and refuses to believe him when Cage has said he’s done this before…. which leads to another small peeve, that in such a dire situation and despite how much foresight Cruise’s Cage seems to have, no one ever gives him or Vrataski even the slightest benefit of the doubt that they can end the war and defeat the invaders. No matter how much info they seem to know, they are completely dismissed. True, it’s a far fetched story but, the world is about to be lost you’d think someone would at least entertain their notions except for his oddball platoon, who are the ones least likely to believe him… especially when they have a physicist to back them up… but, even the physicist is cast aside despite his wealth of knowledge. Makes no sense.
But, despite it’s flaws and being basically a mash-up of things we’ve already seen, Edge Of Tomorrow is an entertaining 113 minutes and was far more satisfying then expected. Go in not expecting much and you might actually come out surprised and having had a good time. A fun Summer movie.