Top Gun: Maverick – Joseph Kosinski

Tom Cruise as Pete "Maverick" Mitchell in the sequel Top Gun: Maverick
Tom Cruise as Pete “Maverick” Mitchell in Top Gun: Maverick (photo credit: Paramount Pictures)

It’s rare that a sequel, especially one 36 years in the making, delivers exactly what its most dedicated fans desire – but that is exactly what Top Gun: Maverick has done, and why it has managed to surpass $1B worldwide in less than a month.

After countless delays due to a global pandemic, Top Gun: Maverick was finally released to audiences worldwide on May 27, 2022 and to say the reception was warm might be the understatement of the century. This is the biggest film Tom Cruise has ever done, and many would say it’s also the best. Reprising his role of fighter pilot Pete Mitchell, aka “Maverick”, Tom Cruise has done something truly inspiring and downright badass – he has brought the blockbuster back to life. And it was worth the wait.

Sure, there have been big movies released in 2021 and 2022 – Spider-Man: No Way Home, F9: The Fast Saga, No Time to Die, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, Jurassic World Dominion – but Top Gun: Maverick is distinctly different in that it doesn’t rely on CG and an established brand (not to mention 7+ other films in the series) to capture the audience. Unlike the movies listed, almost everything you see in Top Gun: Maverick is real, and that’s what audiences have come to expect from Tom Cruise as an actor and filmmaker, a dazzling spectacle of epic stunts and a perfect balance of excitement, humour, and heart.

Tom Cruise flying in a fighter jet in Top Gun: Maverick
Photo credit: Paramount Pictures

Top Gun: Maverick picks up 30+ years after the original 1986 film. Maverick is a test pilot who isn’t afraid of pushing the boundaries of an airframe or an Admiral’s patience (Ed Harris). He ultimately finds himself back at the Top Gun school at the request of “Ice Man” (Val Kilmer) – a former Top Gun classmate who is now a respected Admiral – and is asked to train a handful of fighter pilots for an impossible mission. The problem? He’s not a teacher, he’s a pilot. The other problem? One of the students is the son of his “back-seater” Goose, who died after a terrible accident in the original film (which he still feels responsible for). The result is tension between Mav and his superiors (Jon Hamm, Charles Parnell) – no surprise there – as well as his students as he tries to figure out a way to teach them how to fly with reckless abandon, push themselves to the absolute limit, and survive the upcoming mission.

Of course, there has to be a love interest, and it’s pure genius that they decided to weave in a reference from the original film (Penny Benjamin, the infamous “Admiral’s daughter”) so that audiences instinctively know the two have an established history. Penny is played by beautiful, yet age-appropriate, Jennifer Connelly and the pair make for a good enough on-screen match to satisfy the audience. She provides a sounding board for Maverick when things go sideways and gives him the confidence boost he needs.

Newcomers Glen Powell, Jay Ellis, Monica Barbaro, and Lewis Pullman are perfectly believable as a group of young, cocky fighter pilots and that’s because every one of them were in those F-18s at the behest of Tom, pulling all those Gs and suffering through endless flight training. Miles Teller was probably the best casting choice, rocking a Goose-inspired moustache and using his acting chops (if you haven’t seen Whiplash, watch it) to make us believe he is royally pissed at his Dad’s best friend and has his own confidence issues to work through. He is also the source of a couple of the film’s biggest laughs, so you have to give him props for his comedic timing.

Maverick is just what every cineplex in the country has been crying out for.”

The Atlantic

You can tell that every aspect was carefully crafted by Tom and Director Joseph Kosinski to cater to Top Gun newbies as well as the most dedicated super-fans. There is so much to be impressed with, that the story (which is actually quite good) is almost secondary. Much like the original movie, you have intense training sequences, a love interest, a shirtless game on the beach (naturally..), and then a dangerous mission with real bogies and real stakes.

The runtime is a bit over two hours but the pace is really good. There is enough downtime between flying scenes that you don’t get overly exhausted (looking at you Mad Max) but you also don’t get bored. For those worried about the cringey ‘80s-ness of the original Top Gun, fear not; Top Gun: Maverick is as 2020s as it gets, but with enough nostalgia to make you grin ear-to-ear (and perhaps shed a tear or two).

Top Gun: Maverick Rotten Tomatoes score of 96% from critics and 99% from audiences.
Top Gun: Maverick score on (July 2022)

Parents don’t have to be worried about a long, slow, awkward sex scene like the first movie – thankfully they opted to skip that part completely – and the only aspect that some might be concerned about is a bit of profanity and one perfectly-placed f-bomb that is typical of PG films. Young kids might be bored during the scenes that don’t involve flying, but overall it is a very family friendly film that even 5-year-olds can enjoy. It might even inspire the next generation of pilots, much like the original did when US Navy recruitment spiked by 300% after it was released in 1986!

It’s preferable that you see it on the biggest screen possible and with the loudest sound system. It was made for the theatre, so do your best to get out and see the biggest movie of the year. Whether you join the Navy or not, you will absolutely feel the need for speed and will probably talk about it all the way back home. You might even plan to go see it again like 16% of the movie’s audience has done (according to Paramount Pictures). From personal experience, I can say for certain that the second (and third) time does not disappoint!

Deadpool 2 – David Leitch

Deadpool 2 starring Ryan Reynolds, Josh Brolin, Morena Baccarin, and Julian Dennison.
Photo Credit: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

Since the first Deadpool film smashed the box office in 2016 (grossing over $783M worldwide), fans have been waiting for Ryan Reynolds to reprise the role as the vulgar, hilariously honest Wade Wilson. The original broke records for an R-rated film – a rating it wholeheartedly earned – and it was only a matter of time before Deadpool 2 became a reality.

It’s simple; if you enjoyed the first one, you will enjoy the second one.  The quick-witted, nasty outhouse (toilet just doesn’t cut it) humour is about the same, they routinely break the 4th wall, make cheeky pop culture references, and the R-rating is embraced at every turn.  It may not be quite as funny the second time around, but it is still exactly what you would expect the sequel to be.

Deadpool 2 starts off with a literal ‘bang’ as a depressed Wade attempts to kill himself in spectacular fashion. It shouldn’t be a surprise that he lives (he can’t die) and in an attempt to pull himself together (mentally and physically), he works alongside a bunch of X-Men trying to save a seriously disturbed mutant teen from a time-travelling super-villain called Cable (Josh Brolin). There are a number of amusing cameos along the way – watch closely or you might miss them – and it just solidifies what we already know: every one loves working with Ryan Reynolds.

Audience members who were on the fence about the original Tim Miller version have no business watching the second installment (this time by Director David Leitch, of John Wick fame). For those who never got around to seeing Deadpool, don’t worry about it, you’ll still get it. The plot itself isn’t overly complex and you don’t need a whole lot of background to understand what’s going on. A person with a healthy understanding of the X-Men characters will be rewarded, but again, it’s not a requirement.

Photo Credit: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

Josh Brolin plays a pretty decent villain who, coincidentally, isn’t totally unlike the other famous villain he played this year – Thanos (Avengers: Infinity War). Both “men” are incredibly strong, incredibly misunderstood in their actions, and are killing for “the greater good”. Julian Dennison, a young New Zealand actor in his breakout role of Firefist, will certainly be getting more work after this film. He was endearing, hilarious, and a little creepy all in one. His character is hellbent on revenge for being treated poorly by staff at the orphanage. Feeling sympathy – or any other deep thought for that matter – isn’t necessarily something you would expect in a movie like Deadpool 2, but it still takes you there, albeit just briefly since you know there is always a wisecracking joke around the corner.

Oh, and the end credits are equally amusing. Props to Celine Dion for having a sense of humour in addition to her singing chops. Again, her involvement just proves that everyone loves Ryan Reynolds.

Watch the official trailer here:

Mission: Impossible – Fallout – Christopher McQuarrie

Mission: Impossible – Fallout starring Tom Cruise, Simon Pegg, Ving Rhames,and Rebecca Ferguson.
Photo credit: Chiabella James/Paramount Pictures

It’s pretty clear that Christopher McQuarrie (Director – Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, Writer – Edge of Tomorrow) likes working with  Tom Cruise, they have collaborated on five other films before Mission: Impossible – Fallout in various capacities. When a Producer/Director/Writer has a good working relationship with an actor, it typically comes out on the screen. In the case of McQuarrie and Cruise, it has resulted in many wildly successful action films over the last decade, with Fallout having the best opening weekend for the entire six-movie franchise. 

Critics have called Fallout one of the best action movies ever made. And it’s true, the action doesn’t stop – it is pure escapism at its finest. It’s hard to believe that the hanging-from-an-airplane-scene or the underwater-scene-done-in-one-breath could be topped, but the stunts in Fallout do just that.  Yes, stunts – with an “s”. They are the cornerstone of the franchise and, frankly,  no one can do it better than Tom Cruise. It never leaves you doubting the reality of what you’re seeing on screen because you already know it’s real. In a world where visual effects are generally overdone and entire films are done with the help of a green screen, Mission:Impossible still clings to the notion that “real is better than fake”. When it can be pulled off like it is in Ghost Protocol, Rogue Nation, and Fallout, that is most definitely true.

Fallout follows Ethan Hunt and his team on another mission to stop world destruction when a group gets their hands on a set of weaponized plutonium. Again, Hunt finds himself in a compromising situation (or three) when he has to take matters into his own hands to stop the criminal organization. Lane (Sean Harris) is back from the previous film and is hellbent on destroying Hunt and everything he holds dear. In true Mission: Impossible fashion, there’s double crossing, hand-to-handle battle, a lot of running, intriguing villains, and beautiful women. There’s even a surprising connection to the first Mission: Impossible through one of the new characters, but if you don’t catch it, it’s nothing to lose sleep over. Henry CavillVanessa Kirby, and  Angela Bassett are welcomed additions to the franchise and each new character makes Hunt’s journey a little more interesting this time around. 

Photo credit: Chiabella James/Paramount Pictures

Typically after six movies, some of the cast starts to drop off or replacements are used for certain characters. In the case of the Mission: Impossible film franchise, that hasn’t seemed to be the case. It leads one to believe they really enjoy their work. Tom Cruise may not necessarily be the most likable actor due to his religious beliefs and prior talk show antics (Oprah’s couch), but it certainly appears that he is well-liked in Hollywood, and not just for his almost-guaranteed box-office draw. Between all the stunts and the witty banter between characters, the Mission: Impossible movies just look like a lot of fun to be part of – and a big part of that (like it or not) is due to Tom Cruise. Action movies aren’t known for being very genuine and typically whatever “depth” they attempt to throw in usually seems a bit forced. Mission: Impossible has always been a little bit different though – the balance just….works. You’ll laugh, hold your breath, and take Hunt seriously, all at he same time.

It’s an easy franchise to be loyal to. The formula is the same, the actors/characters are the same (for the most part), and it just keeps getting bigger and better. Oh, and Tom Cruise runs. What’s not to like?

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to run (Tom Cruise style) to the nearest theatre and watch the latest installment on the big screen. You won’t regret it. *cue iconic theme song*

Watch the official trailer here:

The Accountant – Gavin O’Connor

The Accountant starring Ben Affleck, Anna Kendrick, and J.K. Simmons. Photo Credit: Chuck Zlotnick/Warner Bros

The Accountant starring Ben Affleck, Anna Kendrick, and J.K. Simmons.
Photo Credit: Chuck Zlotnick/Warner Bros

Director Gavin O’Connor doesn’t have very much to boast about in terms of past films, only 2011’s Warrior can give any sort of indication that he knows what he’s doing – and not many people saw that one – so despite the last minute marketing effort, the expectations for The Accountant were set pretty low. It could go either way, the movie could either be heavily character driven and not nearly as exciting as the previews indicated (like O’Connor’s Pride and Glory), or it could be a standard action-thriller with all the right moves. As it turns out, The Accountant was neither. The action sequences are fast-paced, satisfying, and deadly and the character development is intriguing, dramatic, and tasteful. The successful fusion of both of these genres is what makes the movie interesting and widely appealing.

Ben Affleck stars as the main character Christian Wolff, known to the U.S. Treasury Department as “the accountant”, among other aliases. He is a mathematics savant with autistic tendencies who has used his exceptional skills to provide accounting services to the criminal underworld for years, while managing to stay alive between jobs. As expected, he has his unique quirks and his ability to understand social cues is virtually non-existent, but his neurodevelopment disorder is never ridiculed or used as the brunt of the joke in The Accountant. Some scenes and exchanges are amusing, but the general “handling” of the condition (as well as its diagnosis) is in no way offensive. Christian’s other impressive skill, explained in a series of childhood flashbacks, is that he is a killing machine; of course, he only puts this to good use when the situation calls for it and when it appeals to his moral code.

When Christian takes on what is thought to be a low-key job investigating some missing money at a robotics company, things start to unravel. Both he and a fellow accountant Dana (Anna Kendrick) find themselves in a situation that calls for him to mostly use his secondary set of skills. Anna Kendrick is delightfully awkward as always and manages to compliment the mostly stoic Affleck. The plot (or plots) is a bit of a mess at times, but the conclusion mostly makes up for any mistakes along the 128-minute pathway.

The supporting cast is quite good, with John Lithgow (Interstellar) as the head of the robotics firm, J.K Simmons (Whiplash) and Cynthia Addai-Robinson as the treasury agents hot on Christian’s trail, Jon Bernthal (Sicario) as deadly hitman, and finally Jeffrey Tambor in a small role as a fellow inmate.

Critics haven’t been very impressed with The Accountant since its release on October 14, 2016, but audiences have generally found it entertaining and worth watching. It’s not your everyday garden variety action film, nor is it a boring piece solely focused on character development. While it won’t win any awards or be remembered for years to come, it takes the good parts from each genre and manages to win you over in the end.

The Accountant was a solid #1 hit in its opening weekend, bringing in over $24M domestically (U.S.A).

Watch the official trailer here:

Avengers: Age of Ultron – Joss Whedon

Avengers: Age of Ultron starring Robert Downey Jr., Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Chris Evans, Jeremy Renner, and James Spader

Avengers: Age of Ultron starring Robert Downey Jr., Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Chris Evans, Jeremy Renner, and James Spader

So many heroes, so few villains; it’s almost not even fair. Even so, the Avengers are pushed to their brink in Avengers: Age of Ultron as they face off against a web-based villain and some ‘enhanced’ twins with super powers. The second movie in the Avengers franchise is exactly what fans wanted and contained enough comic book material to make the Marvel aficionados squeal with glee…for a full 141 minutes. The audience finally gets to see characters as human (so to speak) when they fall under some mystic power and come face-to-face with their fears and other dark events from their past. Later, while tinkering with some supreme power beyond their comprehension, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) and Dr. Banner (Mark Ruffalo) accidentally create artificial intelligence (named Ultron). Ultron, whose main purpose was for world protection, was somehow corrupted and starts to believe that the Avengers and people in general are what the world needs to be rid of in order to start over and eventually thrive – and you can sort of see his point here. So, in order to rid the world of its disease, his plan is exterminate it and leave it to the rubble.

While the story itself is unnecessarily complex and contains pieces from all the other Marvel movies that some audience goers may have missed (or skipped), it certainly isn’t short on action. Fans of the other Marvel movies will get immense pleasure from the dizzying fight sequences, the inside jokes, and the fun that goes along with watching these heroes risk their lives for the greater good – others will just roll their eyes. Whether or not this movie is enjoyed wholeheartedly or simply brushed off as another shallow feature from the money-making machine that is Marvel will depend completely on expectations. It will be corny, it will be ridiculous, but thankfully it’s not pretending to be anything but good, mindless, fun. Unless a Marvel movie is written and directed by Christopher Nolan in the future, they are never going to be anything other than that. Avengers: Age of Ultron and its writer/director Joss Whedon have delivered what the majority of movie-goers want from a superhero movie, as evidenced by the amount of money it has made at the box office so far.

The heroes featured in the movie include: Tony Stark/Iron Man, whose quick wit and sarcasm is classic Robert Downey Jr.; Thor (Chris Hemsworth), who is subtly funny and whose hammer is the source of a few laughs; Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans), whom the others just seem to tolerate; Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), whose romantic interest in Bruce Banner/The Hulk, the guy who is only useful when he’s dangerous, just seems forced; and Clint Barton/Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), the guy who uses a bow and arrow and whose value we don’t really understand. One would think that would be enough brawn and testosterone to thwart any evil plan the universe could throw at the Earth… and one would be right. The odds are always in their favour but as with every epic hero vs. villain movie, all hope is (temporarily) lost until a last minute plan reveals itself. In the meantime, the characters have to work together to figure it out and overcome some tension developing within the group.

James Spader is the voice of Ultron and those who know him well from Boston Legal and The Blacklist will be happy to know that the character, at times, has a very familiar humour that shines through his villainous, metal façade. Once again, Robert Downey Jr. and Chris Hemsworth steal the show as they play the least uptight characters in the movie and provide the majority of the laughs. There are some new faces but the majority of the characters from the other movies return for the fight against evil. Fans will surely be happy to see their old friends once again.

Furious 7 – James Wan

Furious 7 starring Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Dwayne Johnson, Ludacris, and Jason Statham.

Furious 7 starring Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Dwayne Johnson, Ludacris, and Jason Statham.

The latest installment of the Fast and Furious franchise is not likely to be the last, but it certainly feels like the perfect wrap-up to the series and exactly what its fans were hoping for. With each new movie, the stunts as well as the characters get more ridiculous and, to put it bluntly, more badass; each new fight or heist sequence strives to top the previous one. Furious 7 is much bigger and better than the other movies in terms of action and one might even go so far as to say it’s even a little over-the-top, but it delivers such a solid and respectful send-off to its lead actor Paul Walker at the end that all other nonsense is forgiven. After nearly fourteen years of getting to know the main characters, it’s like watching old friends get into trouble all over again. This movie actually adds a layer of emotion and depth that was missing from some of the earlier movies – but it is offset by a number of insane and impossible stunts involving cars, planes (once again), and very tall condos.

In order to tie in the events that took place at the end of the obvious outlier in the series, The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift (#3), it becomes apparent that Furious 7 takes place after the events in Fast & Furious 6 as well as the third movie. The backstory doesn’t really matter and all one really needs to know is that this movie is just about revenge, and that revenge comes in the form of Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) doing everything in his power to take down Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and his gang. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson reprises his role as Hobbs and delivers his usual one-liners and flexes his muscles, while Michelle Rodriguez, Ludacris, and Tyrese Gibson also star in the movie as the characters the audience knows well and has come to love. There are a number of satisfying one-on-one brawls in the movie and chase sequences that will make your head spin and your eyes roll, but that is what the franchise has become and why people will watch it – and enjoy it.

Furious 7 is admittedly too long and has a number of gaping holes, but if you’re in the mood for a fun (and fast) ride, it serves the purpose well. What the movie does best, however, is handle the death of Paul Walker during the filming by re-writing the ending to give him the proper goodbye. It’s touching and absolutely perfect; especially because one knows the words are real and come directly from the hearts of the actors involved, Vin Diesel in particular. If you never thought he could deliver heartfelt dialogue that could make you cry real tears, you better think again – and bring tissues.

Edge of Tomorrow – Doug Liman

Edge of Tomorrow starring Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt

It was a summer filled with crowd pleasing blockbusters like Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Transformers 4 but if you didn’t get a chance to see Edge of Tomorrow in theatres, then be sure to look for it on DVD/Blu-Ray October 7. In a spring/summer filled with sequels, it was one of the more unique movies to hit theatres and, given its company, it didn’t get as much credit as it should have.

It was like Groundhog Day on steroids, and a lot less annoying. Tom Cruise plays “Major William Cage” who unexpectedly gets caught in the middle of a seemingly unwinnable war against robotic aliens and at the same time finds himself in a continuous time-loop where he cannot stay dead. When he does die, which is inevitable in this alien war, he wakes up a moment later at the beginning of the first day where he must relive all of the same moments over again. It was refreshing to see him in a role where he starts off as a bit of a coward who doesn’t know what he’s doing and grows into the macho killing machine we’re so used to. He’s the opposite of a hero when he begins his journey to the front lines where the battle resembles the beginning of Saving Private Ryan, except with terrifying alien killing machines and a lot more fire power. Emily Blunt was surprisingly a great fit for the female lead, a bad-ass war hero with a take-no-shit attitude.

It’s a lot of fun to watch Cage die over and over again and attempt to figure out different ways to make it through the day without getting himself killed, and of course save mankind in the process. Edge of Tomorrow is an extremely fast-paced movie with enough complexity and witty dialogue that makes one wonder how it was all crammed into 113 minutes, an ideal length for an edge-of-your-seat sci-fi action movie (Michael Bay, please take note).

Tom Cruise, as always, has a lot of impressive stunts and actually comes across as funny as the movie plays on. As he quickly becomes a seasoned war veteran through his live, die, repeat sequence, we see him slowly gain the respect of Rita (Emily Blunt) and their relationship, mostly based on tolerance and sarcasm, is pretty amusing to watch. There is some chemistry there, but thankfully that’s not what the movie is focused on.

All in all, it is a unique, fun, and action-packed movie that most people should enjoy. The plot is fairly complex but shouldn’t be too hard to follow as you gain more and more knowledge of the situation as the movie progresses. Do yourself a favour and don’t focus on the loopholes (there are bound to be a few in a story like this) – just sit back, relax, and enjoy the show.