It’s been thirty-six years, but movie goers can once again ride into the danger zone.
Hotheaded test pilot Pete “Maverick” Mitchell (Tom Cruise) returns to the screen and sky in the high-flying sequel “Top Gun: Maverick,” which, despite the main character’s feats of daring do, plays it mostly by-the-book.
When we first get reacquainted with Captain Maverick, he’s still the hotshot, risky pilot we remember from the first film. His cocky attitude and bad boy behavior has kept him from being promoted. “I’m where I belong,” he says when asked why he’s not an Admiral after decades of distinguished service. He’s popular with his peers but not with the brass, save for his old friend and guardian angel, Admiral Tom “Iceman” Kazansky (Val Kilmer in an extended cameo).
“Your reputation precedes you,” says Vice Admiral Beau “Cyclone” Simpson (Jon Hamm). “That’s not a compliment.”
Called back to Top Gun, the United States Navy training program where he learned fighter and strike tactics and technique, Maverick is presented with a last chance for glory. “You fly for Top Gun or you don’t ever fly for the Navy again.”
Cyclone is obviously disdainful of the arrogant Maverick, but acknowledges he is the best person to train twelve of the brightest and best recent Top Gun graduates for a dangerous mission to locate and destroy an underground uranium enrichment site.
For Maverick, the job comes with baggage. It places him in the vicinity of on-again, off-again girlfriend Penny (Jennifer Connelly), a new character, referenced in the first film as the daughter of an admiral. Most dramatically, one of his students is Lieutenant Bradley “Rooster” Bradshaw (Miles Teller), the son of Maverick’s late best friend, “Goose,” played by Anthony Edwards in the first film. Rooster holds Maverick responsible for his father’s death and is resistant to Maverick’s training. “My dad believed in you,” he says. “I’m not going to make the same mistake.”
Of the twelve recruits, half will make the cut, one will be the leader, if Maverick can teach them the precision and “Don’t think, just do” attitude needed to come home alive.
“Top Gun: Maverick” screenwriters Ehren Kruger, Eric Warren Singer and Christopher McQuarrie keep the story simple; a splash of romance, a dash of remorse, some shirtless volleyball and a mountain of eye-popping aerial action. It’s a recipe that echoes the events of the first film to the point of déjà vu. Still, as an exercise in nostalgia, complete with callbacks to the original, and an emotional appearance by Kilmer, “Maverick” works because it blends old and new in a crowd-pleasing way. Unlike other recent 1980s and 1990s reboots, it salutes the original in tribute. Loud and proud, it wears its superficiality on its sleeve in an old fashioned, last century style that is unabashed fan service.
But what really sets the new and old films apart is Cruise. He was a movie star then, and he’s a movie star now, but with age, the stakes for his character are higher. Maverick has a lot to prove, regrets to be dealt with and while the actor doesn’t appear to have aged at all, that trademarked Tom Cruise Run can’t be as easy as it once was. Maverick is a still a hotshot, but here the character is tempered by the sins of the past and a real concern for the future. Cruise’s work shaves some of the hypermasculine edges off Maverick to reveal a more human and humane character than the first time around. It centers the movie with some earthbound emotion to counter the sky-high action.
“Top Gun: Maverick” is a sequel that plays it safe with the story, but lets it rip in the blockbuster action sequences, giving the audience the expected need for speed.
Richard and CP24 anchor George Lagogianes have a look at the weekend’s new movies, the Harry Potter prequel “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” the coming-of-age story “Edge of Seventeen” and Miles Teller as real life boxer Vinny Paz in “Bleed for This.”
Richard sits in with Marcia MacMillan to have a look at the weekend’s new movies, the Harry Potter prequel “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” the coming-of-age story “Edge of Seventeen,” Miles Teller as real life boxer Vinny Paz in “Bleed for This” and “Nocturnal Animals” with Amy Adams and Jake Gyllenhaal.
The Miles Teller boxing film “Bleed for This,” like most sports movies, isn’t really about the sport. Sure there are TKOs and the smack of glove against skin, but really it’s about the indomitable human spirit with one of the greatest real life comebacks in sports history as a backdrop.
Teller plays Vincenzo Pazienza, a.k.a. Vinny Paz a.k.a. the Pazmanian Devil, a championship boxer in lightweight, light middleweight and super middleweight categories. At the beginning of the film he is a wild card, a talented pugilist, but an undisciplined one. The night before a big fight he hits the town, gambling. The next day Roger Mayweather (Peter ‘Kid Chocolate’ Quillin) pummels him in the ring, soundly thrashing the former champ.
Despite his manager insistence that he retire, Vinny lumbers on, working out with Kevin Rooney (Aaron Eckhart), Mike Tyson’s former trainer. Pumped up, he jumps two weight classes and becomes a champion in the light middleweight category before tragedy strikes.
Flush with cash after his win, he buys a sports car. Within hours of owning it he’s involved in an accident that leaves him with a broken neck. “How much time till I can fight again?” he asks his doctor. “I can’t say with certainty you’ll ever walk again,” comes the grim response. His doctor wants to fuse the bone, Vinny instead opts for a halo procedure that involves screwing a circular metal brace into his head for six months to stabilize the injury. During his recuperation Vin secretly works out, preparing himself for a return to the ring. Within thirteen months the halo is gone, and he’s on the comeback trail.
“Bleed For This” aims to be a bigger-than-life tale of resilience and perseverance over adversity but plays like a gritty television movie. Pazienza overcame great odds and proved a lot of people—including his doctors and trainers wrong—but he’s not a particularly likeable champ. Teller emphasizes the character’s never-say-die spirit, but instead of wining us over his cockiness comes off a caricature of chutzpah. Ditto the portrait of Pazienza’s hard-scrapple family. They fight, they argue and worship at a home altar so loaded with Catholic iconography it looks like a page out of the Italian Stereotypes 101 textbook. If the Order Sons of Italy in America were outraged by “The Sopranos” wait till they get a load of this bunch.
Writer-director Ben Younger is a muscular filmmaker, all macho posturing and turbo-charged momentum which may not do his characters any favours but works well when the movie is in the boxing ring.
The final fight scene hits hard with stylish flourishes, like dropping out all the sound safe for the smack of clubs against skin and a pep speech with flashbacks, but it is more compelling than anything that came before it.
As a retelling of one of the most unlikely comebacks in sports history “Bleed for This” succeeds in getting across its predictable ‘never-say-die’ lesson. It’s a shame Younger settle for a made-for-TV-movie sentiment instead of digging deeper to dins a subtext that would really knock the audience out.
By definition the term ‘war dogs’ refers to “bottom feeders who make money off war without ever stepping foot on the battlefield.” In the film “War Dogs” Jonah Hill plays Efraim Diveroli, a true to life 20-something arms dealer who fits that description to a tee. Richard sat with HIll to discuss the film on the CTV NewsChannel.
Welcome to the House of Crouse. By definition the term ‘war dogs’ refers to “bottom feeders who make money off war without ever stepping foot on the battlefield.” In the new film War Dogs Jonah Hill plays Efraim Diveroli, a true to life twenty-something arms dealer who fits that description to a tee. This week Hill stopped by the HoC to chat about the movies and how he gets inside the head of the characters he plays.
Richard and CP24 anchor Karman Wong talk about the weekend’s big releases, including the remake of “Ben-Hur,” the neo-western with Chris Pine, Jeff Bridges and Ben Foster “Hell or High Water,” “War Dogs,” starring Jonah Hill and Miles Teller and the stop motion animated “Kubo and the Two Strings.”
Richard sits in with Todd van der Hayden to have a look Jonah Hill as a twenty-something arms dealer in “War Dogs,” the magical stop-motion animation of “Kubo and the Two Strings,” the neo-western “Hell or High Water” with Chris Pine, Ben Foster and Jeff Bridges and the pointless remake of “Ben-Hur.”