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Review: TOP GUN: MAVERICK, Top-Flight Big Screen Blockbuster

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Review: TOP GUN: MAVERICK, Top-Flight Big Screen Blockbuster

Top Gun: Maverick manages a minor miracle, a legacy sequel over thirty years down the road that actually meets – or maybe even exceeds – the standard of the film it’s following. The original Top Gun wasn’t Tom Cruise’s first hit, but it was the film that made him TOM CRUISE, and became a generation defining action classic.

The appropriately name hot-shot pilot, Maverick (Cruise) is forced to grow up and learn to work with a team he initially bucks at. When his partner, Goose (Anthony Edwards) dies in a mid-flight malfunction, Maverick loses all sense of direction before finally coming through in the end to make friends with his biggest rival, Iceman (Val Kilmer). Mav lives a little, he loves a little, and in the end decides to come back to the Top Gun academy as an instructor, but that was thirty-five years ago.

Top Gun: Maverick picks up decades later, a lot has happened in the interim, and as life often does, it’s thrown Maverick a series of curveballs, some he hit, a lot he whiffed. No longer an instructor at Top Gun – he was never really built for that life – he’s now the military’s top test pilot, that is until he’s called back to the old alma mater to train a crew of young pilots to perform an impossible mission and take out an enemy target that is virtually impenetrable, that is, unless you’re Maverick.

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Among the refreshingly diverse crew of flying aces is Goose’s son, Rooster (Miles Teller), who holds multiple grudges against Maverick, and has a chip on his shoulder the size of an aircraft carrier. But hey, so does everyone else in this class of pilots, they are all the best at what they do, and they will have to learn to work as a team if any of them is going to succeed in this mission, let alone come back alive.

That leads us to the flying, and holy hell if this isn’t some of the most exciting aerial footage you’ll ever see. Never one to back down from an opportunity to nearly kill himself, Cruise and Teller truly deliver the thrills in Top Gun: Maverick’s numerous training and dogfighting sequences. If you thought the original film was exciting, gird your loins, because you’re about to experience G-forces you’ve never encountered on the big screen.

With a full generation’s gap between this film and the last, there was a lot of room to fumble the ball here, but writers Ehren Kruger, Christopher McQuarrie, and Eric Warren Singer really nail the storytelling element of this latest chapter of the Top Gun Story. Yes, Maverick jettisons a lot of the characters and stories of the first film, but who among us can say that we’re still the same person after thirty years? People move on, have new lives, new adventures, suffer new losses, and Top Gun: Maverick respects and incorporates that in a way that is respectful of the characters we love without feeling beholden to a story that’s already been told.

The introductions of Rooster and the rest of the flight crew feels very in line with the boisterous times we had with Mav, Goose, Iceman, and Hollywood back in the say. The addition of a new(ish) love interest in Penny (Jennifer Connelly) and her daughter feels only natural and not forced. Admiral Cyclone (Jon Hamm) plays a perfectly stoic foil to Maverick’s still-impetuous-after-all-these-years hot head, giving Cruise an authority to buck in the most charming way possible. It’s rock solid, exciting blockbuster filmmaking that demands little of its audience, but rewards them handsomely all the same.

With the streaming versus big screen wars that have been raging for years, but really intensely since the pandemic shut down theaters two years ago, there’s be a back and forth about whether the cinema experience is really all that different from seeing a film at home on a good system. Two films have left that argument in the dust in 2022, S.S. Rajamouli’s period action masterpiece RRR, and Top Gun: Maverick. There’s no two ways about it, Maverick was made for the biggest, loudest theater you can find. The aerial stunts are magnificent and undeniably thrilling, the sound design and classic soundtrack will shake the pillars of heaven, and that’s something you just can’t experience without a massive screen enveloping you and putting the audience in the cockpit. Top Gun: Maverick is aces.

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Top Gun: Maverick

Writer(s)
  • Ehren Kruger
  • Eric Warren Singer
  • Christopher McQuarrie
Cast
  • Tom Cruise
  • Jennifer Connelly
  • Miles Teller

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Review: SAMARITAN, A Sly Stallone Superhero Stumble

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Review: SAMARITAN, A Sly Stallone Superhero Stumble

Hitting the three-quarter-century mark usually means a retirement home, a nursing facility, or if you’re lucky to be blessed with relatively good health and savings to match, living in a gated community in Arizona or Florida.

For Sylvester Stallone, however, it means something else entirely: starring in the first superhero-centered film of his decades-long career in the much-delayed Samaritan. Unfortunately for Stallone and the audience on the other side of the screen, the derivative, turgid, forgettable results won’t get mentioned in a career retrospective, let alone among the ever-expanding list of must-see entries in a genre already well past its peak.

For Stallone, however, it’s better late than never when it involves the superhero genre. Maybe in getting a taste of the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) with his walk-on role in the Guardians of the Galaxy sequel several years ago, Stallone thought anything Marvel can do, I can do even better (or just as good in the nebulous definition of the word).

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The property Stallone and his team found for him, Samaritan, a little-known graphic novel released by a small, almost negligible, publisher, certainly takes advantage of Stallone’s brute-force physicality and his often underrated talent for near-monosyllabic brooding (e.g., the Rambo series), but too often gives him to little do or say as the lone super-powered survivor, the so-called “Samaritan” of the title, of a lifelong rivalry with his brother, “Nemesis.” Two brothers entered a fire-ravaged building and while both were presumed dead, one brother did survive (Stallone’s Joe Smith, a garbageman by day, an appliance repairman by night).

In the Granite City of screenwriter Bragi F. Schut (Escape Room, Season of the Witch), the United States, and presumably the rest of the world, teeters on economic and political collapse, with a recession spiraling into a depression, steady gigs difficult, if not impossible, to obtain, and the city’s neighborhoods rocked by crime and violence. No one’s safe, not even 13-year-old Sam (Javon Walker), Joe’s neighbor.

When he’s not dodging bullies connected to a gang, he’s falling under the undue influence of Cyrus (Pilou Asbæk), a low-rent gang leader with an outsized ego and the conviction that he and only he can take on Nemesis’s mantle and along with that mantle, a hammer “forged in hate,” to orchestrate a Bane-like plan to plunge the city into chaos and become a wealthy power-broker in the process.

Schut’s woefully underwritten script takes a clumsy, haphazard approach to world-building, relying on a two-minute animated sequence to open Samaritan while a naive, worshipful Sam narrates Samaritan and Nemesis’s supposedly tragic, Cain and Abel-inspired backstory. Schut and director Julius Avery (Overlord) clumsily attempt to contrast Sam’s childish belief in messiah-like, superheroic saviors stepping in to save humanity from itself and its own worst excesses, but following that path leads to authoritarianism and fascism (ideas better, more thoroughly explored in Watchmen and The Boys).

While Sam continues to think otherwise, Stallone’s superhero, 25 years past his last, fatal encounter with his presumably deceased brother, obviously believes superheroes are the problem and not the solution (a somewhat reasonable position), but as Samaritan tracks Joe and Sam’s friendship, Sam giving Joe the son he never had, Joe giving Sam the father he lost to street violence well before the film’s opening scene, it gets closer and closer to embracing, if not outright endorsing Sam’s power fantasies, right through a literally and figuratively explosive ending. Might, as always, wins regardless of how righteous or justified the underlying action.

It’s what superhero audiences want, apparently, and what Samaritan uncritically delivers via a woefully under-rendered finale involving not just unconvincing CGI fire effects, but a videogame cut-scene quality Stallone in a late-film flashback sequence that’s meant to be subversively revelatory, but will instead lead to unintentional laughter for anyone who’s managed to sit the entirety of Samaritan’s one-hour and 40-minute running time.

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Samaritan is now streaming worldwide on Prime Video.

Samaritan

Cast
  • Sylvester Stallone
  • Javon ‘Wanna’ Walton
  • Pilou Asbæk

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Matt Shakman Is In Talks To Direct ‘Fantastic Four’

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According to a new report, Wandavision’s Matt Shakman is in talks to direct the upcoming MCU project, Fantastic Four. Marvel Studios has been very hush-hush regarding Fantastic Four to the point where no official announcements have been made other than the film’s release date. No casting news or literally anything other than rumors has been released regarding the project. We know that Fantastic Four is slated for release on November 8th, 2024, and will be a part of Marvel’s Phase 6. There are also rumors that the cast of the new Fantastic Four will be announced at the D23 Expo on September 9th.

Fantastic Four is still over two years from release, and we assume we will hear more news about the project in the coming months. However, the idea of the Fantastic Four has already been introduced into the MCU. John Krasinski played Reed Richards aka Mr. Fantastic in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. The cameo was a huge deal for fans who have been waiting a long time for the Fantastic Four to enter the MCU. When Disney acquired Twenty Century Fox in 2019 we assumed that the Fox Marvel characters would eventually make their way into the MCU. It’s been 3 years and we already have had an X-Men and Fantastic Four cameo – even if they were from another universe.

Deadline is reporting that Wandavision’s Matt Shakman is in talks to direct Fantastic Four. Shakman served as the director for Wandavision and has had an extensive career. He directed two episodes of Game of Thrones and an episode of The Boys, and he had a long stint on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. There is nothing official yet, but Deadline’s sources say that Shakman is currently in talks for the job and things are headed in the right direction.

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To be honest, I was a bit more excited when Jon Watts was set to direct. I’m sure Shakman is a good director, but Watts proved he could handle a tentpole superhero film with Spider-Man: Homecoming. Wandavision was good, but Watts’ style would have been perfect for Fantastic Four. The film is probably one of the most anticipated films in Marvel’s upcoming slate films and they need to find the best person they can to direct. Is that Matt Shakman? It could be, but whoever takes the job must realize that Marvel has a lot riding on this movie. The other Fantastic Four films were awful and fans deserve better. Hopefully, Marvel knocks it out of the park as they usually do. You can see for yourself when Fantastic Four hits theaters on November 8th, 2024.

Film Synopsis: One of Marvel’s most iconic families makes it to the big screen: the Fantastic Four.

Source: Deadline

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Dan Aykroyd, Chevy Chase Star in ‘Zombie Town’ Mystery Teen Romancer (Exclusive)

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Dan Aykroyd and Chevy Chase have entered Zombie Town, a mystery teen romancer based on author R.L. Stine’s book of the same name.

The indie, now shooting in Ontario, also stars Henry Czerny and co-teen leads Marlon Kazadi and Madi Monroe. The ensemble cast includes Scott Thompson and Bruce McCulloch of the Canadian comedy show Kids in the Hall.

Canadian animator Peter Lepeniotis will direct Zombie Town. Stine’s kid’s book sees a quiet town upended when 12-year-old Mike and his friend, Karen, see a horror movie called Zombie Town and unexpectedly see the title characters leap off the screen and chase them through the theater.

Zombie Town will premiere in U.S. theaters before streaming on Hulu and then ABC Australia in 2023.

“We are delighted to bring the pages of R.L. Stine’s Zombie Town to the screen and equally thrilled to be working with such an exceptional cast and crew on this production. A three-time Nickelodeon Kids Choice Award winner with book sales of over $500 million, R.L. Stine has a phenomenal track record of crafting stories that engage and entertain audiences,” John Gillespie, Trimuse Entertainment founder and executive producer, said in a statement.

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Executive producers are Trimuse Entertainment, Toonz Media Group, Lookout Entertainment, Viva Pictures and Sons of Anarchy actor Kim Coates.  

Paco Alvarez and Mark Holdom of Trimuse negotiated the deal to acquire the rights to Stine’s Zombie Town book.

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