TOP GUN: MAVERICK: 4 STARS
It’s been 36 years, but moviegoers may once again be entering the danger zone.
Hot-headed test pilot Pete “Maverick” Mitchell (Tom Cruise) returns to the screen – and to the skies – in the high-flying sequel “Top Gun: Maverick,” which, despite the titular character’s daring exploits, plays him mainly according to the rules.
When we first reconnected with Captain Maverick, he’s still the successful, risque pilot we remember from the first film. His arrogant attitude and bad boy behavior prevented him from being promoted. “I belong,” he says when asked why he is not an admiral after decades of distinguished service. He is popular with his peers, but not with the brass, with the exception of 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). “It’s not a compliment.”
Called back to Top Gun, the U.S. Navy training program where he learned combat and strike tactics and techniques, Maverick is given one last shot at glory. “You fly for Top Gun or you never fly for the Navy again.”
Cyclone is obviously dismissive of the arrogant Maverick, but recognizes that he’s the best person to train 12 of Top Gun’s brightest and best recent graduates for a dangerous mission to locate and destroy an underground enrichment site. of uranium.
For Maverick, work comes with baggage. This puts him close to girlfriend Penny (Jennifer Connelly), a new character, referenced in the first film as an admiral’s daughter. More dramatically, one of his students is Lt. Bradley “Rooster” Bradshaw (Miles Teller), the son of Maverick’s deceased best friend, “Goose”, played by Anthony Edwards in the first movie. Rooster holds Maverick responsible for his father’s death and is resistant to Maverick’s training. “My father believed in you,” he said. “I’m not going to make the same mistake.”
Of the 12 rookies, 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 make it home alive.
“Top Gun: Maverick” screenwriters Ehren Kruger, Eric Warren Singer and Christopher McQuarrie keep the story simple; a dash of romance, a dash of remorse, shirtless volleyball and a mountain of jaw-dropping aerial action. It’s a recipe that echoes the events of the first film until deja vu. Still, as an exercise in nostalgia, with throwbacks to the original and an emotional Kilmer cameo, “Maverick” works because it blends old and new in a crowd-pleasing way. Unlike other recent reboots from the 1980s and 1990s, it pays homage to the original. Loud and proud, he wears his superficiality on his sleeve in an old-fashioned, century-old style that’s unapologetic fan service.
But what really sets the new and old movies apart is Cruise. He was a movie star then, and he’s a movie star now, but as he gets older, the stakes for his character get higher. Maverick has a lot to prove, regrets to deal with and while the actor doesn’t seem to have aged at all, this Tom Cruise trademark run may not be as easy as it once was. Maverick is still a hotshot, but here the character is tempered by past sins and genuine concern for the future. Cruise’s work shaves off some of Maverick’s hypermasculine edges to reveal a more human, human character than the first time around. It centers the film with earthy emotion to counter the giddy action.
“Top Gun: Maverick” is a sequel that plays it safe with the story, but lets it rip into the blockbuster action sequences, giving audiences the expected need for speed.
THE BOB’S BURGERS FILM: 3 ½ STARS
The list of sitcoms that have inspired movies is short. This week, that exclusive list goes up a notch as “The Bob’s Burgers Movie” joins other animated series like “South Park” and “The Simpsons” in moving from the small to the big screen.
In what could be a tall episode of the TV show, with a musical, murder-mystery twist, the film begins a week before the start of summer. Socially awkward girl Tina (Dan Mintz) hopes to hook up with her fantastic summer boyfriend. Son Gene (Eugene Mirman) hopes his latest musical invention, a napkin holder fitted with plastic forks, will be just the sound his band, The Itty Bitty Ditty Committee, needs to finally break through with the public, and after that a classmate called her “baby,” the youngest daughter Louise (Kristen Schaal) is determined to prove she’s big and brave.
Parents Bob (H. Jon Benjamin) and Linda Belcher (John Roberts) have bigger problems. “Every day I give myself a little diarrhea from worry and stress,” Bob sings in the film’s first big musical number. They have seven days to get a loan extension from the bank or they could lose their beloved burger joint.
When a giant sinkhole opens up right in front of their business, they ask the owner, the eccentric and wealthy Calvin Fischoeder (Kevin Kline), for an extension. “I’m torn,” he says, “and by that I mean I’m drunk.”
When the sinkhole becomes a crime scene – a “crime hole” as they call it – their problems increase, but an investigation by the kids may lead to a solution…or maybe something worse.
With the core creative team and cast returning from the TV series, it’s no surprise that “The Bob’s Burgers Movie” has the same kind of irreverent, funny, and punny dialogue that makes the series and characters such a delight. for twelve seasons. “Bob” aficionados should get the fan service they’ve come to expect, while newcomers should easily pick up the vibe.
Not all of them are buns with special sauce and sesame seeds. The big musical number at the top is pretty awesome. It separates the movie from the small-screen edition, with cool animated choreography and clever lyrics. Unfortunately, after that, it’s as if director Loren Bouchard left the rest of the musical score at home. There’s a song or two later, one with a big “crime and sausage” rhyme, but the promise of something different, something cinematic, is usually dashed.
The pacing issues make the final section, a far too long action-adventure sequence, a bit of a grind that sucks some of the fun out of the story. Still, as they say, the only bad burger is the one you haven’t eaten, and until then, “The Bob’s Burgers Movie” isn’t bad. There’s enough laughs and clever dialogue to whet your appetite.
THE MAN IN THE MIDDLE: 3 STARS
The new film “The Middle Man”, a black comedy now in theaters, is the story of Frank (Pal Sverre Hagen), an unemployed man who takes a job in America’s accident capital.
The setting is Karmac in any state in the Midwest, USA. Terrible things happen almost daily. It’s so grim there that the flags at City Hall are permanently at half-mast. The only growing industry in town is accident cleanup, the crew that comes to clean up after bad things happen.
The town is going bankrupt, soon they won’t be able to turn on the streetlights, which the local doctor (Don McKellar) says will lead to even more incidents, so they have to hire a middleman, someone to deliver bad news for the families of the bereaved.
Frank, out of work for three years, applies, even though his only qualifications are beaten dog behavior and telling his mother that his father fell off a ladder, hit his head and died.
He gets the job, learns the ropes – “Crying is a privilege that belongs to the next of kin,” says the sheriff (Paul Gross), “not the middle man.” – and forms a bond with receptionist Blenda (Tuva Novotny) When Bob (Trond Fausa Aurvag), Brenda’s ex-boyfriend and failed Middle Man contestant, punches and kills Frank’s best friend, it sets off a series of… events that lead an overwhelmed Frank to wonder if his new position is right for him. “It’s a busy job,” he says, “accidents don’t interfere with office hours.”
Norwegian director Bent Hamer, who also wrote the screenplay for a novel by Norwegian-Danish writer Lars Saabye Christensen, may have set the story in the Midwest, but his dark, deadpan humor is purely Scandinavian. This semi-comic study of loss and grief has a macabre tone, but retains an eerie, if dark, sense of itself. Dialing in the wacky aspects of the story may have increased the film’s commercial appeal, but may have undermined Hamer’s thoughtful thinking about life in an unusual small town.
“The Middle Man” won’t be for everyone, but viewers with a taste for unconventional, yet restrained absurdism will find plenty to enjoy.