‘Top Gun: Maverick’ Takes It to the Limit

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Top Gun: Maverick (CREDIT: Paramount Pictures, Skydance and Jerry Bruckheimer Films)

Starring: Tom Cruise, Miles Teller, Jennifer Connelly, Jon Hamm, Glen Powell, Lewis Pullman, Ed Harris, Val Kilmer, Monica Barbaro, Charles Parnell, Jay Ellis, Greg Tarzan Davis, Bashir Salahuddin

Director: Joseph Kosinski

Running Time: 131 Minutes

Rating: PG-13 for Danger Behind Enemy Lines

Release Date: May 27, 2022

Let’s throw it right out there to begin. Does Top Gun: Maverick make me once again want to have the need, the need for speed? I won’t mince words: sort of, but not exactly. Those aerial acrobatics certainly had my adrenaline pumping, but patience is a virtue when watching this movie. Two hours and eleven minutes isn’t exactly a bloated running time for a big blockbuster action sequel, but when the majority of the action consists of training sessions leading up to The One Big Mission, you feel the weight of the wait. And as far as I, a humble movie viewer, can tell … that is exactly what everyone involved was going for! We get to see the work that goes into pushing limits, we all hold our collective breath, and we pray that everyone makes it out of the danger zone. And then Lady Gaga brings it on home with a rapturous rock ballad. That’s the formula for Top Gun Success in 2022.

You may be wondering why Pete “Maverick” Mitchell is still flying with the new class of pilots 36 years after we first met him. It’s not just because Tom Cruise is incorrigible about doing his own stunts. Metatextually, that is the reason, of course, but within the context of the narrative, it’s because Maverick just doesn’t want to be promoted beyond captain. Responsibility blows, right? Nevertheless, this state of affairs means that he’s the best person to train the new crop of Top Gun pilots (which includes at least one offspring of a former colleague) for an impossible mission. And what a doozy of an impossible mission it is, as they have to wipe out a uranium enrichment site in some mountainous nation (that remains hilariously unnamed the whole movie) by executing some dangerously sharp descents and ascents. It’s a very specific, contained situation to build an entire story around, and it mostly works.

If you’re hoping for the same bonhomie as the original, it’s certainly there, with a round of beach football taking the place of the volleyball. But the main attraction is all the clearly defined aerial action. The maneuvers require so much G-force that loss of consciousness is fully expected. We’re talking fainting while piloting thousands of feet up in the air! I could feel myself being flattened like a pancake in my seat just watching it. This is a portrait of the test of human limits that will have your throat in your stomach, your brain in your toes, and your soul dying and reincarnating. The danger zone is alive and well.

Top Gun: Maverick is Recommended If You Like: Watching planes fly by before football or baseball games

Grade: 4 out of 5 G-Forces

‘Apollo 10½’ Sends a Kid to the Moon But Also Keeps Him Earthbound

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Apollo 10½: A Space Age Childhood (CREDIT: Netflix)

Starring: Milo Coy, Jack Black, Josh Wiggins, Lee Eddy, Bill Wise, Natalie L’Amoreaux, Jessica Brynn Cohen, Sam Chipman, Danielle Guilbot, Glen Powell, Zachary Levi

Director: Richard Linklater

Running Time: 98 Minutes

Rating: PG-13 for Some Mildly Adult Moments

Release Date: April 1, 2022 (Netflix)

Isn’t it cool when kids do something that only adults are supposed to do? Well, maybe not all the time, at least not in the real world. Sure, a toddler dressing up like a doctor is so gosh darn cute, but that same toddler performing surgery is probably not the best idea. But we’re talking about fictional worlds right now! And that means that children can hold down dangerous jobs, and perform them quite admirably to boot. That brings me to the Richard Linklater-directed Apollo 10½: A Space Age Childhood, a rotoscope-animated adventure in which a boy named Stanley (Milo Coy) is recruited by NASA to participate in the Apollo 11 mission. Now that’s some historical revisionism I can get behind.

In this alterna-vision of the 1960s, finding fresh astronauts is akin to the modern practice of college scouts traversing through middle schools to find the next big football or basketball phenom. A couple of NASA officials (Glen Powell, Zachary Levi) are hanging around a recess kickball game because one of the lunar modules is too small for adults and they’re hoping to find someone here who can fit in it. So they key right in on Stanley, and I’m all ready to go for some astronaut training montages. But not so quick, as that’s not exactly what Linklater has in mind. Instead, this is mostly a semi-autobiographical coming-of-age tale about growing up in a big family in 1960s Texas, with the Space Race serving mostly as a background event. An important background event that sets the tone, but not the main event no matter how you slice it.

If Apollo 10½ had focused more on the child astronaut conceit, it would’ve been a lot more unique than what we actually ended up with. Instead, it’s a familiar piece of coming-of-age nostalgia from an oft-explored era. A well-made piece of familiar nostalgia, with compelling narration from Linklater vet Jack Black as adult Stanley, but decidedly familiar nonetheless. So just keep your expectations in check about the potential for freshness, and you should be able to find something to enjoy here.

Apollo 10½ is Recommended If You Like: 1960s fashion, 1960s TV shows, 1960 music

Grade: 3 out of 5 Lunar Modules