My View: Top Gun: Maverick (2022) PG-13 Pete ‘Maverick’ Mitchell (Tom Cruise) has for 30 years served his country but has done it his way, as one of the Navy’s top aviators, pushing the envelope as a test pilot. Maverick has been able to dodge the advancement in rank that would ground him until now. Maverick is back where he started, and he is still flying by the air tower, rank be damned. First, see this film on as big a movie screen as you can find (I saw it in IMAX and am so glad I did) because, incredibly, most of the stunts in this film were done in real planes making the flying sequences an absolute blast to watch. I was physically tired after seeing this film because I felt I was in those fighter jets along with the characters in the movie. Secondly, this is one of the best sequels ever made, and yes, I know it’s 36 years after the Top Gun. The first Top Gun was a fun, enjoyable movie that capitalized on the then-growing movie theme of mixing current top 40 hits with a film to create music videos within a movie. The plot was stitched together (some of it after principal shooting had been done) and leaned heavily on Tom Cruise’s charisma and lots of good-looking young men (sometimes with their shirts off). Not only that, but we kicked the Russian’s butts in a dogfight (something huge in the 80s), and you also had a great cast of primarily up-and-coming stars, including an adorable Meg Ryan. So come this movie, and it blows that Top Gun out of the park. First and foremost, Tom Cruise is brilliant as the man who has lived his life like his nickname, Maverick. After doing what Maverick does, breaking the rules to prove a point, he is forced to return to the school which made him a true fighter pilot, ‘Top Gun.’ He will lead a mission with the best pilots in the Navy that is dangerous and may be impossible, but of course, that is what Maverick does, the impossible. Add to this is a cast that rivals the original. First, we have Jennifer Connelly, playing a former flame of Maverick, who now runs the famous bar that everyone hangs out in, and Maverick has a history of trying to pick up women in. Connely is perfect as the one that got away, someone who can stand up to Maverick’s antics and give him a run for his money. And she is someone who has lived a life both before and after Maverick. Next, we have perfect casting in Miles Teller, who plays a certain someone’s son and is now a pilot who has a big chip on his shoulder because of it. When Miles walks into the bar, our first scene to see him, it is a fantastic moment, which at first, I thought was a flashback. Finally, we have a new ace named Hangman, played with gusto and bravado by Glen Powell, a cock sure pilot who outdoes Mavericks’ old rival, Iceman. Speaking of Iceman, Val Kilmer makes a vital appearance in the film, and they explain his inability to talk normally (in real life, Kilmer had throat cancer, see his documentary Val for more). The plot is fast-paced, hitting all the right notes and emotions, the romance between Cruise and Connely feels real and genuine, the action sequences are truly superb, and there isn’t a bad performance in the bunch. All in all, Top Gun: Maverick is sure to be in my top ten films of the year and is not to be missed. And once again, see it in a big-screen theatre! You won’t be disappointed. My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again Top Gun: Maverick Website Now playing in theatres nationwide.
My View: The Bob’s Burgers Movie (2022) PG-13 As The Bob’s Burgers Movie opens, a bank payment is due, and if things can’t get worse, a giant sinkhole opens up right in front of the restaurant. Now it’s up to the kids to try to solve a mystery that could possibly save their parent's place. Truth be told, I’m not a big Bob’s Burger fan (I’ve seen quite a few episodes). That being said, I thoroughly enjoyed this film. The songs are a lot of fun, the storyline is imaginative and funny, and the voice cast brings an energy to the screen that makes it an amusing ride. Fans of the show will love this film, bringing some of the best aspects of the series, mainly the songs and the quick, often hilarious, asides that the characters make, combined with a mystery that is entertaining to solve, make this a fun and light film to watch. If you haven’t seen the series, you will quickly be able to follow and fall in love with this strange and hilarious family that, at its core, is all about love and believing in yourself and your family. With a bit of help from your friends and siblings, you can do anything, including solving a crime or two. My Rating: Full Price The Bob's Burgers Movie Website Now playing in theatres nationwide.
Indiefest: Montana Story (2021) R Two long-estranged siblings (Haley Lu Richardson, Owen Teague) come back home to their father’s ranch as he is on his deathbed. While there, they will be forced to confront their shared painful past, facing a deep and bitter family legacy. One of the things I enjoy about going to film festivals is discovering a film that I didn’t know anything about and falling in love with it. I did this at the 2022 Atlanta Film Festival with this film. This is a quiet, potent story powered by a moving performance by its two lead actors. Owen Teague plays Cal, the son who stayed behind when his sister suddenly left the family and disappeared. Teague brings a quiet presence to the part, a young man trying to do the best he can in a difficult situation and is troubled by a shared past with his long-lost sister. Haley Lu Richardson plays the somber and sometimes fiery Erin, a young woman who wants to do nothing with her father and doesn’t really know why she has come back to a place that has caused her so much pain. Adding to the performances is the cinematography, perfectly capturing the magnificent Montana vistas, where the sky does seem to go on forever, and the mountains seem both welcoming and menacing at the same time. Montana Story is a drama about secrets that a family keeps and how they can tear apart a family, only to be repaired with time, understanding, and deeply filled regret. In addition to the main actor performances, I loved the supporting cast in this film, with some beautiful and meaningful performances brought to the screen by Kimberly Guerrero, the long-time housekeeper and family friend Valentina, and the father’s nurse, played by Gilbert Owuor, a thoughtful and insightful Kenyan Immigrant, there to make the father’s last days as peaceful as possible for both the parent and the kids. Adding to the mix is an entertaining and fantastic storyline of Erin’s attempt to save a horse on the family farm that means the world to her. Montana Story is a family drama that takes its time to reveal the scars and chasms that have long been buried and must be confronted before the two siblings can move on. My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again Montanta Story Website Now playing in select theatres.
Indiefest: 18 1/2 (2021) PG-13 At the height of the 1974 Watergate scandal, it was discovered that there were 18 1/2 minutes of recordings that had been erased. A White House transcriber (Willa Fitzgerald) is thrust into the scandal when she discovers she is in possession of the only copy of the infamous 18 1/2 minute gap in the Nixon tapes. This an interesting little film that is part black comedy, part thriller with a few nice twists and turns. It is important to know that one of the things which brought down the Nixon presidency was it was found out that Nixon had recorded every meeting that took place in the White House Oval Office. Adding to that outlandish fact, it was discovered that in one session, there was 18 1/2 minutes of conversation that the White House clumsily claimed was mistakenly erased by Nixon’s secretary. In this film, a transcriber has discovered a separate tape (recorded without their knowledge) of Nixon and his staff listening to the tape and deciding to destroy it. She decides to go to a reporter, someone she respects and trusts, to let the story out. The film balances comedy with a bit of drama and suspense as the two try to find a way to listen to the tape together before the transcriber has to get the tape back to the archives. They go to a remote off-season resort, and a comedy of errors happens, from a nosy resort manager (played by the always funny Richard Kind) to a group of hippies trying to recruit the two into their party, to a strange older couple who are celebrating their wedding anniversary. I enjoyed Willa Fitzgerald's performance of the woman who wants to do the right thing but doesn't want to get caught up in the hysteria of Watergate. The film does a fun job at capturing the look and feel of a time transitioning from the peace and love movement of the 60s to the more almost paranoid feel of how the government was lying to us about nearly everything and everyone. 18 1/2 flounders a bit in the last act but is still an enjoyable ride that lets the tension build as everything seems against the two from actually listening to the tape. My Rating: Bargain Matinee 18 1/2 Website Now playing in select theatres.
Indiefest: A Chiara (2021) R An 15-year-old girl named Chiara (Swamy Rotolo) is a member of a close-knit family, and she deeply loves her father. Chiara’s world starts to fall apart when her father disappears in the middle of the night, and, consequently, she is determined to find out what happened to him and why. Part mystery, part coming of age film, A Chiara is a story about a young woman who has to grow up too quickly after she decides to go against the wishes of her older sister and mother and delve deep into her father’s past and current life. Swamy Rotolo gives us a teen who is fiercely determined to find out the truth, no matter the cost or how it turns out. Rotolo is a young actress who is able to give us a sweet girl who is concerned about Instagram and her carefree life of the privileged where her family is tight and loving. From the start of the film, it is apparent that Chiara is her father's favorite, and she feels that he can do no wrong. But then, in the middle of the night, she witnesses her father running away into the dead of night, and right after he has fled, his car is blown up. From there, she decides that while no one in her family will tell her the truth, she will discover it on her own. A Chiara is a film that starts as a look at the life of a teen who is surrounded by family and friends, and by the end of the film, it's her against the world as she digs further and further to find out the truth, a truth that could change her life forever. My Rating: Full Price A Chiara Website Now playing in select theatres.
My View: Zero Contact (2022) R Five people from around the globe are connected only by their devotion to tech titan Finley Hart (Anthony Hopkins). The five discover that Finley has developed a new, secret invention that could end life on earth as we know it, and accordingly, they must band together to stop him. An interesting film that was shot in 17 different countries during the height of the pandemic, where all the actors were on their own, shooting their parts remotely. Part of the plot of the movie is that Finley Hart is responsible for creating a software that allows companies to spy on their clients, and so we are witness to their spying when the principal in the story uses their smartphones, their security systems, and their computers to show us what is happening to each character. The five main characters each have a past with Finley; some knew him, some only worked remotely with him, and one, Sam (Chris Brochu), is the long-separated son of Finley. The five are put together after Finley’s death and must decide to either shut down or fire up a computer system using technology so powerful that it could destroy the earth’s ecosystem in one fatal power up. The film wants to be a thriller with a bit of horror thrown in, but the plot is so twisted and full of holes, where we are to believe that teleportation is not only possible but used without a lot of explanation, that I got lost on what was the plan or what were the stakes if the plan worked or didn’t. Anthony Hopkins is wasted as the mad inventor (or is he) who has created this elaborate plan to activate his last and possibly fatal gift to humanity, though it is fun to see him play the piano and chew a few scenes while speaking on the ills of humanity. Zero Contact is part one of a trilogy, and though the film shows us footage of how they put this film together during the credits, I have no interest in finding out what happens next. My Rating: Bargain Matinee Zero Contact Website Now playing in select theatres and On Demand.
Forgotten Film: The Lacemaker (1977) R Pomme (Isabelle Huppert) is a shy, reserved young woman who lives with her loving mother and works at a Parisian beauty salon. Pomme decides to go on vacation with her out-going and fun-loving friend, Marylene (Florence Giorgetti), to the Normandy coast. Almost as soon as they arrive, she is abandoned by her friend, who has found a new man to fall in love with, and Pomme is left alone in a resort town. Pomme soon meets and quickly falls in love with a literature student Francois (Yves Beneyton), and they decide to move into together when they return to Paris. However, Pomme soon learns that falling in love with someone you don’t know well can be risky. Huppert is the reason to see this film as she is striking as the young, innocent woman who wears her heart on her sleeve. The Lacemaker is a tale of a romance where the two lovers are destined to fall apart. Is it that their love is not strong enough to survive, or are the two too young to learn that the road to love lasting is not easy. My Rating: Full Price The Lacemaker Info
Weird Credits: From the credits of Top Gun: Maverick: Cast Swim Coach
Coming Soon to a Screen Near You: Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris (2022) PG A widowed cleaning lady (Lesley Manville) in 1950s London inherits a big of money, falls madly in love with the dresses of Dior, and decides to fly to Paris and buy one for herself. It’s a tale of adventure that will change her life and possibly the very future of the House of Dior itself. The trailer had me at the start with stars Lesley Manville and Isabelle Huppert. Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris Website