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: Bad Boys for Life

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Bad Boys for Life and all the images you see in this review are owned by Sony Pictures Releasing

Directed by Adil El Arbi & Bilall Fallah

As I’m sure is true for many film fans out there, Michael Bay and I have a complicated relationship.  On the one hand, being upset at the Michael Bay Aesthetic and the crappy Transformers movies has become kind of passé and is better left to the Cinema Sins and Razzie hacks of the world.  Not only that, he’s more than capable of making REALLY great movies that are unique to his sensibilities; particularly Pain and Gain which is clearly his best film by a wide margin.  Then again, he’s also the guy who indulges in racist and sexist caricatures in the service of crass humor, and his disdain for the audience and basically all of humanity may be an asset in some films but is also reflected in just how shoddily some of them are put together; incoherent plotting, choppy editing, and an oblivious tone on top of being unfunny and tasteless.  I had never seen the Bad Boys movies until very recently and solely in preparation for this new one, and sure enough they contain everything I don’t like about the guy even if they are somewhat more tolerable than some of his later work; presumably due to Bruckheimer being the bigger name at the time which meant he could reign in some of Bay’s worst tendencies.  Now all that said, we are going Bayless for this one as he doesn’t even have a producing credit on here, so at least there’s hope that these filmmakers with a fresh perspective can take what elements DID work in the originals while taking out some of their more pernicious aspects to send this franchise off right.  Can we close this trilogy on a high note instead of get more of the same nonsense?  Let’s find out!!

Marcus Burnett and Mike Lowrey (Martin Lawrence and Will Smith) are still Miami cops doing their Bad Boys shtick, and while it’s been a fun ride for both of them, Marcus is starting to look towards the back half of his life and doesn’t want it to be filled with more violence, rough schedules, and close calls.  Mike on the other hand isn’t even SEEING this as the back half of his life and is trying harder than ever to stay fit, stay alert, and stay young despite the gray hairs showing in his beard.  One fateful night while partying with the other cops including good ol’ Captain Howard (Joe Pantoliano, a.k.a. JOEY PANTS!) Mike gets the biggest reality check of his life as some masked assassin tries to shoot him to death and almost succeeds.  Marcus takes this as a sign to finally retire while Mike can only think of vengeance and wants his help in finding the person who did this to him, but perhaps Mike will have to go it alone.  Even worse, he may have to try and find this person with the help of the youngsters at the station who are in some sort of advanced CSI crew named AMMO led up by Mike’s ex-girlfriend Rita (Paola Núñez) who isn’t thrilled about working with the guy either given his history of blowing things up and how personal this case is to him.  Will Mike’s quest for vengeance end in him triumphing once again like he did so many times in the old days?  Will Marcus stay true to his retirement and be there for his family, or is his bond with his best friend enough to get him on board for one last ride?  Is it just me or is this like ten times more interesting than whatever was going on in the other films?

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“Dang, Mike!  It’s almost like we have competent writers now!”     “How does it feel?”     “It… sort of tickles.”

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Cinema Dispatch: Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales

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Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales and all the images you see in this review are owned by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Directed by Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg

Here’s the thing about the Pirates movies.  Other than MAYBE the DCCU, it’s probably the most frustratingly simple conceit imaginable that they keep managing to screw up over and over again, so while some people may have a seething hatred for them (I wouldn’t blame you if you did), I find myself disappointed more than anything.  Now credit to where it’s due.  The first movie is still good, I like a lot of what they were doing with the second film, and I even think the fourth film was a marked improvement over the nadir that was At World’s End.  In fact, the fourth film is the closest since the first film of what this franchise SHOULD be which is the cinematic equivalent of pulp adventure books like the Conan stories or John Carter of Mars; a universe comprised of interesting and diverse characters but with stories that can be enjoyed individually.  Where Pirates started to screw up (and then self-imploded with the third one) was in trying to focus too much on continuity, MacGuffins, and character motivations that spanned MULTIPLE films; all of which made it almost impossible to enjoy the second and third ones on their own and why the fourth one felt like an okay start to a new direction for this franchise.  Will they continue that trend with this new one?  Well… probably not considering that Will and Elizabeth are returning to the series which presumably means a whole lot baggage is coming along with them, but let’s find out!!

The movie picks up several years after the events of On Stranger Tides, though more importantly for the purposes of this story, after the events of At World’s End as we have the son of Will and Elizabeth Turner (Orland Bloom and Keira Knightley) named Henry (Brenton Thwaites) trying desperately to break the curse on his father that has imprisoned him as the Captain of the Flying Dutchman.  While working for the British Navy, the ship he’s training on crashes face first into THE DEVIL’S TRIANGLE (wouldn’t you want to AVOID something named that?) and he’s left as the sole survivor of an attack by the ghostly crew of Captain Armando Salazar (Javier Bardem).  Now Henry has been looking for Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) for some time to see if he has some insight into saving his father and Captain Salazar manages to suss this out, so on top of leaving him as the sole survivor in order to spread his legend, he ALSO want him to give Jack a lesson when he finds him; mainly that he plans on killing that guy the first chance he gets.  Now after that prologue, we jump to the Island of Massive Coincidences where Jack just so happens to be wasting his days away drinking rum and there also JUST SO HAPPENS to be a woman named Cariana Smyth (Kaya Scodelario) who may have the answer to finding the GREATEST TREASURE OF THEM ALL and exactly what Henry needs to break his father’s curse.  Oh, and Henry JUST SO HAPPENS to be sent to this island after he’s found by the British Navy because why not.  I won’t spoil much more at this point (mostly to keep this mercifully short) but by the start of the second act, Jack, Henry, Carina, and a few salty sea dogs (including Joshamee Gibbs played by Kevin McNally who’s been a staple of this series since the beginning), are sailing towards this mysterious treasure known as The Trident of Poseidon which can possibly break Will’s curse.  They aren’t the only ones headed in that direction however as Captain Salazar is after Jack, Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) is KIND OF after Jack, and some dude from the British Navy (David Wenham) is after all of them so he can throw them in jail.  Will Jack Sparrow manage to find this treasure and also avoid the wrath of Salazar who just so happens to have a grudge against him?  What exactly did Jack do to Salazar in order to gain his ire, and how far will he go for revenge?  Do these movies REALLY need to be this complicated every single freaking time!?

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Oh look!  The series is literally jumping the shark!

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