Top Gun: Maverick Review

Sun drenched SoCal nostalgia permeates every land, air, and beach surface of Top Gun: Maverick and it’s a pleasure to bask in the glow. Many a franchise lately has attempted to tap into our sentimentality and many have failed. 36 years after the original, Maverick elevates what preceded it while making us misty about those very events from the mid 80s. Perhaps most thrilling is watching a movie star firmly in control of what’s made him a headliner for five decades.

Captain Pete Mitchell aka Maverick (Tom Cruise) has refused upward promotion in the Navy while spending the bulk of his working hours skyward as a test pilot. The romance that took his breath away with Kelly McGillis is seemingly long dormant. His friendship with Iceman (Val Kilmer), now a decorated Admiral, saves his tail after a work mishap. Instead of washing out, he’s sent back to San Diego as a TOPGUN teacher. Against the wishes of a Vice Admiral who goes by Cyclone (Jon Hamm), Maverick is tasked with instructing a new generation of pilots.

Their mission (and they’re forced to accept it) is to destroy an unnamed enemy nation’s uranium enrichment plant. It is (ahem) a potentially impossible mission and Maverick’s tutelage is complicated by one of the students. Rooster (Miles Teller) is the son of the late Goose (Anthony Edwards) from the original. You may recall that he perished in the arms of the leading man and therefore eliminated his ability to talk to anyone except for metaphorically.

While the dynamic between the teacher and his pupil is the pic’s emotional through line, there’s subplots aplenty. This includes Maverick’s courtship of Penny (Jennifer Connelly), who checks the boxes of being an ex-flame, single mother, and bar owner where standards from the 1960s can be drunkenly belted out. We also get a truly emotional sequence with Cruise and Kilmer made more touching by the latter’s real world health challenges. And, of course, there’s a whole new crop of pilots. Most memorable, by far, is the cocky Hangman (Glen Powell). You’ll leave the theater convinced Powell is going to become a major headliner himself.

Then there’s the fact that technology has soared by leaps and bounds since the first one. To put it simply – the aerial battles in the third act are awesome and I would suggest an IMAX venue to take it in. As mentioned, many fan service attempts in recent times have been serviceable at best or less. Top Gun: Maverick, with its megawatt star, is more than that. It earns its stripes.

***1/2 (out of four)

Top Gun: Maverick Box Office Prediction

***And a final update for Top Gun: Maverick as my prediction rises again to $113.4 million for the three-day and $138 million for the four-day. That it gives it the #2 all-time Memorial Day for both frames.

***Blogger’s Update (05/25): Significantly up-ticking my estimate once again. Now projecting a three-day of $103.7M (good for second biggest Memorial Day Friday to Sunday) and $124.4M for the four-day (third largest all-time). Sky is increasing the limit…

**Blogger’s Update (05/24): Estimate updated from a three and four-day projection, respectively, of $75.6M and $98.8M to $86.6M and $104.9M. That now gives Maverick the #7 largest Memorial Day weekend three-day and #6 four-day

It could be a record breaking memorable weekend for Tom Cruise as Top Gun: Maverick finally lands in theaters. The long gestating sequel arrives 36 years after the original made Cruise a superstar. The wait was only supposed to be 33-34 years, but production delays and COVID postponements altered the plan.

Joseph Kosinki, who previously directed the lead in 2013’s Oblivion, directs. Costars include Miles Teller, Jennifer Connelly, Jon Hamm, Glen Powell, Ed Harris, Monica Barbaro, and Val Kilmer reprising his role as Iceman. Critics have certainly indicated this is worth the wait. Budgeted at a reported $150 million, reviews are impressive with a 97% Rotten Tomatoes score. There’s even Oscar buzz as it will surely be a contender in Sound and Song (with Lady Gaga crooning “Hold My Hand”).

Paramount is hopeful that Maverick will take the breath and money away from moviegoers over the Memorial Day frame. The loud buzz generated by critics should make this soar even higher than previously anticipated.

In doing so, we could see Tom cruise to a personal best opening. Somewhat surprisingly, his all-time largest opening is War of the Worlds at $64 million for the traditional Friday to Sunday period. Mission: Impossible – Fallout (the last flick to feature Cruise four years ago) is close behind at $61 million.

Maverick will, of course, have a four-day tally. That’s familiar territory for Cruise as the first three Mission: Impossible tales premiered over Memorial Day with the second one doing $70 million from Friday to Monday. However, it opened on the Wednesday before to bring its gross to $91 million.

First things first. I do believe Tom’s latest sequel will achieve his highest three day take ever. I also suspect there will be some projections for Maverick that will be too high. A four-day take of over $100 million is absolutely doable (and my prediction could rise in the coming days), but I’m skeptical. That’s uncharted territory for Mr. Cruise. A Friday to Sunday haul in the mid 70s seems likelier. If that happens, it should achieve mid 90s for the whole frame. That would give it the ninth best Memorial 3 day start – in between Solo: A Star Wars Story ($84 million) and The Lost World: Jurassic Park ($72 million). It would rise a spot to 8th for the four-day between the same two features at $103 million and $90 million, respectively. And that would be a memorable start indeed.

Top Gun: Maverick opening weekend prediction: $113.4 million (Friday to Sunday); $138 million (Friday to Monday)

For my The Bob’s Burgers Movie, click here:

The Bob’s Burgers Movie Box Office Prediction

Oscar Predictions – Top Gun: Maverick

Top Gun: Maverick was supposed to arrive a mere 34 years after its iconic predecessor. Due to numerous COVID delays, it now hits theaters on May 27th and some 36 years behind the original. By nearly all accounts, Tom Cruise and the filmmakers have landed the plane.

Ahead of its Cannes premiere, the review embargo has lapsed for Maverick and the Rotten Tomatoes score is a sizzling 96%. Nearly all critics are calling it an improvement over the ’86 blockbuster and it could be in line to give Cruise his largest opening and overall hit of his career (my box office prediction will arrive next week).

Three and a half decades back, part one caught the attention of Academy voters in four categories. The Berlin theme “Take My Breath Away” won Best Song and Gun nabbed nods for Film Editing, Sound, and Sound Effects Editing. All those races are in play again in one form or another.

Best Sound has been condensed to one category and it’s a near lock that the sequel will play there. Film Editing, Cinematography, and Visual Effects are also possibilities. Then there’s the sound of Lady Gaga’s voice. The superstar contributed the track “Hold My Hand” and it could be hard to beat. Ms. Gaga is poised for her third Song nomination behind 2015’s “Til It Happens to You” from The Hunting Ground and “Shallow” from A Star Is Born (which won). She also shares Score credit with Hans Zimmer (who just won a trophy for Dune) and Harold Faltermeyer (best known for his Beverly Hills Cop tune “Axel F”).

Let’s assume Sound and Song are gimmes. With the aforementioned others, we could be looking at a handful of mentions. Will the Academy go beyond the tech derbies? It looks like Maverick will be a gigantic earner and crowdpleaser. I have no doubt there will be a push from Paramount for Best Picture recognition and Cruise in Best Actor. If so, it would be his fourth acting nod. There were two in lead for 1989’s Born on the Fourth of July and 1996’s Jerry Maguire and a supporting mention for 1999’s Magnolia. He’s never made a victorious trip to the podium.

I’m skeptical about it playing in the major leagues, but wins in Sound and Song are doable. My Oscar Prediction posts will continue…

Oscar History: 2014

Six years ago in Oscar history began an impressive two year run for filmmaker Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu with Birdman emerging as the big winner of the evening. The film took Best Picture and Director over its major competitor – Richard Linklater’s Boyhood. This was a ceremony in which the largest category did have some suspense. Birdman took the prize over the aforementioned Boyhood and six other pics: American Sniper (the year’s top grosser), The Grand Budapest Hotel (marking Wes Anderson’s first and only Picture nominee), The Imitation Game, Selma, The Theory of Everything, and Whiplash. 

In this blogger’s perfect world, Dan Gilroy’s Nightcrawler would have been recognized. It was my favorite movie of that year so get used to seeing it pop up in this post. Other notable selections from 2014 left on the cutting room floor: David Fincher’s Gone Girl, Bong Joon-ho’s Snowpiercer, and Bennett Miller’s Foxcatcher. 

Mr. Miller did have the notable distinction of being nominated for Best Director despite his work not showing up in Best Picture (very rare these days). As mentioned, Inarritu took the gold over Miller as well as Linklater, Anderson, and Morten Tyldum (The Imitation Game). Gilroy, Fincher, and Joon-ho might have warranted consideration in my view as well as Chazelle’s bravura debut in Whiplash. 

One could argue that Nightcrawler isn’t your prototypical Picture contender. However, Jake Gyllenhaal being left out of the five Actor contenders stands as one of the noteworthy snubs in recent history. It was Eddie Redmayne emerging victorious for The Theory of Everything over his closest competitor Michael Keaton (Birdman). Other nominees: the three C’s of Steve Carell (Foxcatcher), Bradley Cooper (American Sniper, picking up his third nomination in a row), and Benedict Cumberbatch (The Imitation Game).

There is a voluminous list of solid performances beyond just Gyllenhaal’s that were left wanting. It includes Ben Affleck (Gone Girl), Chadwick Boseman (Get On Up), Bill Murray (St. Vincent), David Oyelowo (Selma), Joaquin Phoenix (Inherent Vice), Timothy Spall (Mr. Turner), and Miles Teller (Whiplash).

In Best Actress, Julianne Moore triumphed for Still Alice after four previous nominations without a win. She took the honor over Marion Cotillard (Two Days, One Night), Felicity Jones (The Theory of Everything), Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl), and Reese Witherspoon (Wild). Moore’s selection was one of the easiest to project as she’d been a sturdy frontrunner all season.

Looking back, how about Emily Blunt in Edge of Tomorrow? Its action genre trappings probably prevented consideration, but she might have made my quintet. Amy Adams won the Golden Globe for Actress in Musical/Comedy, but missed here.

Another easy (and absolutely deserved) winner was J.K. Simmons in Supporting Actor for Whiplash over Robert Duvall (The Judge), Ethan Hawke (Boyhood), Edward Norton (Birdman), and Mark Ruffalo (Foxcatcher).

I will yet again mention Nightcrawler as I might have considered Riz Ahmed. There’s also Josh Brolin in Inherent Vice.

Boyhood nabbed its major race victory in Supporting Actress with Patricia Arquette. Other nominees were Laura Dern (Wild), Keira Knightley (The Imitation Game), Emma Stone (Birdman), and the always in contention Meryl Streep for Into the Woods.

As for others, I’ll start with (surprise) Rene Russo in Nightcrawler. Others include both Melissa McCarthy and Naomi Watts for St. Vincent in addition to Jessica Chastain (A Most Violent Year) and Katherine Waterston (Inherent Vice).

My Oscar History will continue soon with 2015 as Mr. Inarritu will dominate the director race yet again while the Academy chose to spotlight something in Best Picture!

Oscar Watch: Thank You for Your Service

This Friday, Thank You for Your Service hits theaters and reviews out today have been quite positive. It marks the directorial debut of Jason Hall, who received an Oscar nod in Adapted Screenplay in 2014 for American Sniper. The film concentrates on Iraqi soldiers dealing with PTSD upon their return home. Miles Teller heads the cast alongside Haley Bennett, Beulah Koale, and Amy Schumer.

The subject matter here is certainly timely and critical reaction suggests another strong performance from Teller, who many feel should have been nominated for his work in 2014’s Whiplash. That said, I don’t see Thank You being much a player in this year’s awards scene. Box office grosses aren’t expected to be strong like in the case of Sniper, which grossed $350 million domestically and scored six nominations.

Adapted Screenplay (from Hall) could be its sole shot at recognition. On paper currently, that category seems a bit thin. However, the likely scenario is that Service won’t be in the mix come announcement time.

My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Thank You for Your Service Box Office Prediction

Based on a true story detailed in David Finkel’s 2013 novel, war drama Thank You for Your Service is in theaters next weekend. Miles Teller, Haley Bennett, Beulah Koale, and Amy Schumer (in a change of pace role) Amy Schumer are among the cast.

The debut of TV director Jason Hall, Thank You could face an uphill battle at the box office. The late October release doesn’t inspire much confidence. While this genre has certainly had breakout hits like American Sniper and Lone Survivor, this tale of three soldiers returning from Iraq probably won’t even reach double digits.

I’ll say this could go as low as $4 million, but I’ll predict it manages a bit above that.

Thank You for Your Service opening weekend prediction: $5.2 million

For my Jigsaw prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/10/18/jigsaw-box-office-prediction/

For my Suburbicon prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/10/18/suburbicon-box-office-prediction/

Only the Brave Box Office Prediction

Only the Brave opens next weekend and it stands the best shot at being the second highest grosser of the five newbies hitting screens after Boo 2! A Madea Halloween. Joseph Kosinski, director of Tron: Legacy and Oblivion, is behind the lens for this true-life action/drama focused on a crew taking on devastating wildfires. Josh Brolin, Miles Teller, Jeff Bridges, James Badge Dale, Taylor Kitsch, Jennifer Connelly, and Andie MacDowell are among the cast.

There will some competition for adults and action fans with premieres like The Snowman and Geostorm. However, Brave could have a minor leg up with its solid reviews and the unfortunate timeliness of its storyline.

I’ll say a debut at $10 million is probable.

Only the Brave opening weekend prediction: $10 million

For my Boo 2! A Madea Halloween prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/10/11/boo-2-a-madea-halloween-box-office-prediction/

For my Geostorm prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/10/12/geostorm-box-office-prediction/

For my The Snowman prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/10/12/the-snowman-box-office-prediction/

War Dogs Movie Review

In a way, War Dogs is a bit of a companion piece to The Big Short. We have a director (Todd Phillips) known for humorous material making a more serious and based on true events effort about controversial policies during the Bush/Cheney era. We have a mix of dramatic and comedic actors telling the tale. However, whereas Adam McKay’s aforementioned 2014 picture was a big success, Dogs falls short.

Its failings are certainly not due to lack of an interesting story. We begin in 2005 when the Iraq conflict is at its height. While the war is dividing a nation, David (Miles Teller) is living a carefree existence in Miami as a massage therapist. His major conflict is making enough cash to support him and his pregnant girlfriend (Ana de Armas). David’s financial issues are provided a boost when he runs into his junior high best bud Efraim (Jonah Hill). He seems to be doing just fine and David soon discovers his old friend is making a killing as an arms dealer selling product to the U.S. government. Efraim soon cuts David in as a partner and their deals bring them to the Middle East, including drab Albania. It is that deal, involving selling 100 million rounds of ammo to the military, that will provide their windfall payload. It also provides all sorts of dangerous problems.

Dogs wags an understandable critical finger at the ease in which these twentysomethings with zero government or defense experience managed their exploits. As Efraim and David become richer than they ever could have envisioned, their trappings of wealth storyline feels awfully familiar. David’s relationship suffers, Efraim’s already diabolical personality grows out of control, etc… Yes, this may be a true story, but all this material felt truly well-worn.

As for performances, Hill has shown himself to be adept at both funny stuff and less funny stuff (Moneyball and The Wolf of Wall Street as the prime examples). His performance here isn’t near as effective and I couldn’t escape the notion that he seemed to be trying a bit too hard to pull off his bad guy role. Teller is a talent as well (Whiplash as prime example), but his work here is a couple notches above bland. Bradley Cooper turns up for a few minutes as a shady dealer whose character is just interesting enough that I would’ve liked to see him more.

The source material (based on a Rolling Stone article) should have garnered a richer experience than what Phillips gives us. War Dogs has plenty in common with The Big Short in terms of personnel involved, but little in common with it as to lasting impression.

** (out of four)

Bleed for This Box Office Prediction

We’ve seen a number of films about the sweet science over the past few years and another one hits theaters next weekend as Bleed for This debuts. The true story tells the tale of pugilist Vinny Pazienza (Miles Teller), who looks to return to the ring after a debilitating accident. Ben Younger, who directed 2000’s well-regarded Boiler Room, followed it up with the less regarded Uma Thurman/Meryl Streep rom com Prime, and hadn’t made a movie since – is behind the camera. Costars include Aaron Eckhart, Ciaran Hinds, Katey Sagal, and Ted Levine.

Bleed debuted at the Telluride Film Festival in September to generally positive reaction. It’s at 77% currently on Rotten Tomatoes. The boxing genre has seen some successes this decade with titles such as The Fighter and Creed. On the other hand, Southpaw and especially August’s Hands of Stone struggled.

This one could face an uphill battle. Luckily for its studio, it comes with a light $6 million budget so a knockout gross isn’t really required. I anticipate a middle single digits start.

Bleed for This opening weekend prediction: $5.8 million

For my Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2016/11/09/fantastic-beasts-and-where-to-find-them-box-office-prediction/

For my Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2016/11/09/billy-lynns-long-halftime-walk-box-office-prediction/

For my The Edge of Seventeen prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2016/11/09/the-edge-of-seventeen-box-office-prediction/

Todd’s Weekly Oscar Predictions: November 3rd Edition

Well – we’ve reached November, loyal blog readers and as I’ve mentioned before, I’m paring down the list of Oscar hopefuls in the eight major categories. Over the past two months, I’ve listed 25 possibilities for Best Picture and 15 for the Directing, Acting, and Screenplay races. Today, it gets whittled down to 20 in BP and 10 in the others. One development of note this week: it appears Dev Patel will be competing in Supporting Actor for Lion instead of Lead. That enters him in the derby for that race, which looks more unpredictable than any other at this moment.

There are still a number of Oscar hopefuls left to screen: Silence, Fences, Live by Night, Rules Don’t Apply, Passengers, The Founder, Hidden Figures, Miss Sloane, Gold among them. In other words, look for shifts in placement as these movies start receiving reviews and buzz in the near future.

Here’s how I have the respective competitions shaping up in this early November period:

Best Picture

Predicted Nominees

1. La La Land (Previous Ranking: 1)

2. Silence (PR: 2)

3. Fences (PR: 3)

4. Moonlight (PR: 4)

5. Lion (PR: 5)

6. Manchester by the Sea (PR: 7)

7. Jackie (PR: 6)

8. Loving (PR: 8)

9. Arrival (PR: 9)

Other Possibilities

10. Hidden Figures (PR: 10)

11. Hell or High Water (PR: 12)

12. 20th Century Women (PR: 11)

13. Hacksaw Ridge (PR: 13)

14. Live by Night (PR: 15)

15. Rules Don’t Apply (PR: 24)

16. Sully (PR: 14)

17. The Jungle Book (PR: 17)

18. Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk (PR: 16)

19. Allied (PR: 20)

20. Florence Foster Jenkins (PR: 18)

Dropped Out:

Nocturnal Animals, Miss Sloane, Passengers, Gold, 13th

Best Director

Predicted Nominees

1. Damien Chazelle, La La Land (PR: 1)

2. Martin Scorsese, Silence (PR: 2)

3. Denzel Washington, Fences (PR: 4)

4. Kenneth Longergan, Manchester by the Sea (PR: 3)

5. Barry Jenkins, Moonlight (PR: 6)

Other Possibilities

6. Denis Villeneuve, Arrival (PR: 7)

7. Garth Davis, Lion (PR: 8)

8. Pablo Larrain, Jackie (PR: 5)

9. Jeff Nichols, Loving (PR: 9)

10. Theodore Melfi, Hidden Figures (PR: 10)

Dropped Out:

Mike Mills (20th Century Women), Ang Lee (Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk), Mel Gibson (Hacksaw Ridge), Ben Affleck (Live by Night), Clint Eastwood (Sully)

Best Actor

Predicted Nominees

1. Denzel Washington, Fences (PR: 1)

2. Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea (PR: 2)

3. Joel Edgerton, Loving (PR: 4)

4. Ryan Gosling, La La Land (PR: 3)

5. Tom Hanks, Sully (PR: 5)

Other Possibilities:

6. Andrew Garfield, Silence (PR: 6)

7. Warren Beatty, Rules Don’t Apply (PR: 9)

8. Andrew Garfield, Hacksaw Ridge (PR: 8)

9. Matthew McConaughey, Gold (PR: 13)

10. Viggo Mortensen, Captain Fantastic (PR: 12)

Dropped Out:

Dev Patel (Lion – moved to Supporting), Michael Keaton (The Founder), Jake Gyllenhaal (Nocturnal Animals), Will Smith (Collateral Beauty), Miles Teller (Bleed for This)

Best Actress

Predicted Nominees

1. Emma Stone, La La Land (PR: 1)

2. Natalie Portman, Jackie (PR: 2)

3. Annette Bening, 20th Century Women (PR: 3)

4. Ruth Negga, Loving (PR: 5)

5. Amy Adams, Arrival (PR: 4)

Other Possibilities

6. Meryl Streep, Florence Foster Jenkins (PR: 6)

7. Jessica Chastain, Miss Sloane (PR: 7)

8. Isabelle Huppert, Elle (PR: 8)

9. Marion Cotillard, Allied (PR: 10)

10. Rebecca Hall, Christine (PR: 11)

Dropped Out:

Taraji P. Henson (Hidden Figures), Rachel Weisz (Denial), Jennifer Lawrence (Passengers), Amy Adams (Nocturnal Animals), Emily Blunt (The Girl on the Train)

Best Supporting Actor

Predicted Nominees

1. Michael Shannon, Nocturnal Animals (PR: 1)

2. Liam Neeson, Silence (PR: 2)

3. Mahershala Ali, Moonlight (PR: 3)

4. Dev Patel, Lion (PR: Not Ranked; considered to be Lead)

5. Stephen Henderson, Fences (PR: 5)

Other Possibilities

6. Peter Sarsgaard, Jackie (PR: 6)

7. Lucas Hedges, Manchester by the Sea (PR: 7)

8. Hugh Grant, Florence Foster Jenkins (PR: 4)

9. Mykelti Williamson, Fences (PR: 10)

10. Alan Rickman, Eye in the Sky (PR: 14)

Dropped Out:

Aaron Eckhart (Sully), Sunny Pawar (Lion), Jeff Bridges (Hell or High Water), Timothy Spall (Denial), Aaron Eckhart (Bleed for This), Kevin Costner (Hidden Figures)

Best Supporting Actress

Predicted Nominees

1. Viola Davis, Fences (PR: 1)

2. Naomie Harris, Moonlight (PR: 3)

3. Michelle Williams, Manchester by the Sea (PR: 2)

4. Nicole Kidman, Lion (PR: 4)

5. Greta Gerwig, 20th Century Women (PR: 5)

Other Possibilities:

6. Octavia Spencer, Hidden Figures (PR: 6)

7. Janelle Monae, Hidden Figures (PR: 7)

8. Molly Shannon, Other People (PR: 8)

9. Felicity Jones, A Monster Calls (PR: 9)

10. Margo Martindale, The Hollars (PR: 10)

Dropped Out:

Helen Mirren (Eye in the Sky), Elle Fanning (20th Century Women), Janelle Monae (Moonlight), Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Miss Sloane), Laura Linney (Nocturnal Animals)

Best Original Screenplay

Predicted Nominees

1. Moonlight (PR: 3)

2. La La Land (PR: 1)

3. Manchester by the Sea (PR: 2)

4. Loving (PR: 5)

5. Jackie (PR: 4)

Other Possibilities

6. 20th Century Women (PR: 6)

7. Hell or High Water (PR: 7)

8. The Lobster (PR: 9)

9. Miss Sloane (PR: 8)

10. I, Daniel Blake (PR: 11)

Dropped Out:

Toni Erdmann, Allied, Rules Don’t Apply, Gold, Florence Foster Jenkins

Best Adapted Screenplay

Predicted Nominees

1. Fences (PR: 1)

2. Silence (PR: 2)

3. Lion (PR: 3)

4. Arrival (PR: 4)

5. Nocturnal Animals (PR: 5)

Other Possibilities

6. Hidden Figures (PR: 6)

7. Hacksaw Ridge (PR: 9)

8. Live by Night (PR: 8)

9. Love & Friendship (PR: 7)

10. Certain Women (PR: 10)

Dropped Out:

Sully, Elle, Indignation, The Jungle Book, Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk

And that shall do it for now, friends! Until next time…