Cinema Dispatch: Top Gun: Maverick

Top Gun: Maverick and all the images you see in this review are owned by Paramount Pictures

Directed by Joseph Kosinski

It’s true that I’m getting to this one pretty late, but it’s also true that the darn thing is still the biggest movie at the moment so I guess I can still call this review somewhat relevant. I guess it’s no surprise that one of the most enduring classics of the eighties finally getting the sequel everyone always wanted would hit like a meteor full of money, but it’s still pretty surprising just how much this has eclipsed everything else around it. Even MCU movies which are supposedly so ubiquitous that we should all be sick of them don’t manage to have the kind of staying power that this movie has! So what is the secret formula that turned this into a license to print money? Is it actually as good as its box office would suggest, or has nostalgia once again suckered us all into giving money to a movie that was better off being remembered than revived? Let’s find out!!

Captain Pete Mitchell, better known as Maverick (Tom Cruise), has been bumming around the Navy since the glory days of Eddie Money and Leisure suits, and it’s landed him a gig as a test pilot for experimental aircraft. Of course, Maverick being Maverick, he manages to screw that up by ticking off Admiral Ed Harris and is only saved from a dishonorable discharge by his old friend Admiral Tom Kazansky who was once known as Iceman (Val Kilmer). Instead, he gets sent to teach the next generation of hot shot pilots which just so happens to include Lt. Bradley Bradshaw (Miles Teller), the son of Goose who died while flying with Maverick back in the first movie. His assignment, should he choose to accept it, is to get these Millennials in tip-top fighting shape for a ridiculously complicated and ludicrously dangerous bombing run to destroy a uranium enrichment facility, and there’s no one better than Maverick for making the impossible merely improbable! Can Maverick finally put his ego in check and be the teacher that these pilots need? What happened between him and Bradley that left him feeling so bitter, and is this Maverick’s last chance to make things right? Was waiting nearly forty years to make a sequel just a flex on Tom Cruise’s part to show how little he’s aged since then?

“Just hang tight and we’ll be done before you know it.”     “How long until we’re over Macho Grande?”     “Son, I don’t think we’ll ever get over Macho Grande…”     “Was than an Airplane 2 reference? Seriously, how old is this guy!?”
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Cinema Dispatch: Escape Room: Tournament of Champions

Escape Room: Tournament of Champions and all the images you see in this review are owned by Sony Pictures Releasing

Directed by Adam Robitel

I have next to no memories of the first movie other than a general sense of loathing and contempt for its central premise and absurd ending. The whole thing just got memory-holed like so many bad horror movies I saw in theaters which I guess is an interesting position to be in when watching a sequel as the lack of concrete feelings definitely gives it a lot of leeway as far as trying new things; not to mention that the overall low opinion going into it only makes the bar that much easier to clear.  It’s certainly possible that whatever negativity I felt for the first film has burned itself out and I’ll be more open for whatever this Saw Knockoff franchise wants to throw at me, but then again the trailers weren’t exactly selling me on anything beyond elaborate traps and people yelling which certainly sounds familiar to what I didn’t like last time around. Besides, we don’t NEED a Saw Knockoff anymore now that they’ve brought the series back and aimed it in a new and interesting direction!  In any case, does this latest entry in the ESCAPE ROOM UNIVERSE expand upon the original and actually give us something interesting, or will this movie double down on everything that didn’t work the first time?  Let’s find out!!

Following the events of the first film (which are helpfully summarized in a sequence that might as well have started with PREVIOUSLY ON ESCAPE ROOM), Zoey and Ben (Taylor Russell and Logan Miller) are still looking for the mysterious Minos corporation that set up the elaborate game from the first film and have seemingly set up games like this all over the place.  After some cajoling from Zoey, the two of them travel to New York which seems to be their base of operations but find nothing there except an empty alley and a purse snatcher.  Said purse snatcher grabs Zoey’s compass which I THINK was given to her by one of the characters in the first movie, and after an overly long chase through the streets of New York, they wind up on a subway car while the thief jumps out at the last second.  For reasons that are never properly explained, this subway car JUST SO HAPPENS to have four other passengers on it and they all get directed into another one of those deadly escape rooms.  ALSO as it turns out, the four other people are previous winners of one of Minos’s games which makes this (as one character helpfully says out loud) a tournament of champions.  Our previous winners are Rachel, Brianna, Nathan, and Theo (Holland Roden, Indya Moore, Thomas Cocquere, and Carlito Olivero), and all six of them have to go from room to room solving deadly puzzles for some nebulous goal and the chance to maybe not get murdered, though with Zoey and Ben hot on Minos’s heels it seems unlikely that this game is just gonna swing open the doors for them even if they manage to find the right number of keys in a fish tank or whatever.  Will Minos finally be brought down by the very champions that they’ve created, or will everyone be out for themselves in a desperate bid for survival?  Is there more to this game than they first realize, or are the Shyamalan twists in this thing easy to spot from a mile away?  Does any of it even matter when the game is apparently being run by money wizards that can literally do anything at any time with these nonsensical traps? 

“I KNOW THIS ONE! It’s a selfie challenge!” *CLICK* “Okay, maybe not.”
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Cinema Dispatch: Escape Room

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Escape Room and all the images you see in this review are owned by Sony Pictures Releasing

Directed by Adam Robitel

Oh boy!  Is it January already!?  We all know that this is the BEST month for movies, am I right!? Okay, so the conventional wisdom has been that movies released in January are in a sort of deadzone where there’s next to no chance for an awards worthy movie to get recognition (especially when we’re still talking about awards for movies last year) and it’s far too early to start releasing the blockbusters since the box office is still densely packed with what came out at the tail end of last year.  Whatever is coming out right now is usually doing so because there wasn’t much hope that a more valuable timeslot would amount to much for its box office, but then that’s not necessarily the same as a movie being BAD; just not particularly marketable.  After all, Proud Mary was pretty good and came out in January!  Okay, so did The Commuter, but the point is that it can go either way!  Will this be the rare exception of not just a good movie in January but a good HORROR movie in January!?  Let’s find out!!

Six people, Zoey, Ben, Amanda, Mike, Jason, and Danny (Taylor Russell, Logan Miller, Deborah Ann Woll, Tyler Labine, Jay Ellis, and Nik Dodani) are given invitations for this super awesome Escape Room with the added incentive that if they manage to solve it they’ll get a ten grand prize!  Well that sounds so good that you CAN’T pass it up, right!?  Sure enough it turns out to be an elaborate trap where they have to solve the riddle of each room or die horrible deaths.  Well that sounds like a poor way to spend your weekend (I’d certainly give this Escape Room Company a bad review on Yelp!) and it’s not like they have any idea why this is happening in the first place which is admittedly sort of a moot point if they can’t manage to find a way out before it’s too late.  Can these six strangers work together in order to solve each room’s puzzle and make it to the very end of the game?  What is it that connects these people together, and what does the Escape Room Company expect to get out of this in the first place?  Who the heck is in charge here, anyway!?

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“She may not be the most helpful, but at least she’s here nights and weekends.”

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