Top Gun: Maverick (Paramount, Blu-ray or DVD, PG-13, 130 min.). Tom Cruise is the focus of this sequel to 1986’s Top Gun, directed by the late Tony Scott. Not only does Cruise reprise his role as Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, he choreographed the flight sequences, helped fellow actors with flight lessons, and flies his own P-51 Mustang in the film.
The time is 30 years after the first film, with Maverick still a Navy pilot but one who’s only become a captain and is now testing the Darkstar, a new hypersonic aircraft designed to reach Mach 10 (a speed that in reality is never reached). . He receives the call from Rear Admiral Chester “Hammer” Cain (Ed Harris) to ask Adm. Beau “Cyclone” Simpson (Jon Hamm) to report to as he is assigned to become a TOPGUN instructor for a group of 12 pilots, six of whom will be deployed in a near-impossible combat mission to destroy a uranium production facility nestled in a ravine and surrounded by anti-aircraft missile launchers—all in less than three weeks.
Among the pilots to be trained is Lt. Bradley “Rooster” Bradshaw (Miles Teller), the son of Maverick’s former flying partner “Goose”, whose death still haunts him. Besides his father’s death, Rooster has another reason to hate Maverick, who has always tried to protect him. Another pilot is a high-spirited Lt. Jake “Hangman” Seresin (Glen Powell), who fills the sort of role Val Kilmer played as Iceman in the first film.
Actually, Iceman is still around, now an admiral with an apparently terminal illness, but he’s the one who insisted Maverick be the one training the pilots, much to Cyclone’s dismay. This time around, Maverick is more moderate when it comes to women, if not flying. He reconnects with bartender Penny Benjamin (Jennifer Connelly), a new character but mentioned in the first film. Other connections to the previous film are the introductory plane takeoffs that open the film, the sounds of Kenny Loggins’ “Danger Zone”, Maverick wearing his famous jacket while riding his motorcycle, and many mini flashbacks to Goose’s story. This film replaces shirtless beach soccer with the first film’s shirtless beach volleyball. Cruise’s physique is still holding up.
In some ways I liked the earlier film better than the first part, but nothing can beat the actual mission flying in this film. With up to six cameras in the F-18 cockpits with the actors, viewers feel like they’re in the car. The flying is superb too, and the twists and turns of the mission are both exciting and satisfying. All in all, Cruise, director Joseph Kosinski (“Tron: Legacy”) and the crew, including cinematographer Claudio Miranda, did a great job.
Solid extras include a very interesting look at the actors’ actual pilot training (9:15), a behind-the-scenes look at how the aerial photography came about (7:56), a look at Cruise’s passion for aviation and flying his P-51 (4:48) and the creation of the Darkstar with Lockheed Martine’s Skunk Works division (7:31). There are also two music videos: Lady Gaga’s “Hold My Hand” (3:52) and OneRepublic’s “I Ain’t Worried” (2:37). Rating: film 4 stars; Extras 3 stars
Rating Guide: 5 Stars = Classic; 4 stars = excellent; 3 stars = good; 2 stars = sufficient; dog = skip
Die Fledermaus: Special Edition (1959, The Movie Detective, Blu-ray, SR, 80 min.). Despite the film’s name and the presence of Vincent Price in the cast, this is not a horror film but more of a crime thriller. Agnes Moorehead plays mystery writer Cornelia van Gorder, who rents The Oaks mansion. At the same time, the police are hunting a serial killer they call The Bat for his way of killing. In addition, the local bank had $1 million worth of securities stolen, which it turns out were stolen by bank officer John Fleming (Harvey Stephens), who was Dr. Malcolm Wells (Price) confesses to the crime during their hunting trip.
Fleming comes up with the idea that Wells should fake that Fleming died and get $500,000 since Wells is also the coroner. Wells decides he’d rather have it all, but isn’t sure where Fleming hid the securities. Fleming’s son Mark (John Bryant) is the one who rented The Oaks to van Gorder. It is suspected that the securities are hidden in the mansion and Mark knows where the blueprints of the building are.
Of course, more deaths follow, and the film equally manages to make Wells and Police Lieutenant Andy Anderson (Gavin Gordon) suspicious, though van Gorder’s chauffeur/butler Warner (John Sutton) may have a patchy past.
The film is based on a 1900 play and is the fourth version to hit the big screen. Extras include audio commentary and an accompanying essay on original author Mary Roberts Rinehart by film scholar Jason A. Ney; a featurette on the career of director and writer Crane Wilbur, who was also a silent film star and appeared in “The Perils of Pauline” (22:24); and nine classic radio episodes from 1943 to 1956 starring Price, including one featuring his alternate rendition of “Cinderella” (29 mins each). Rating: film 3 stars; Additional costs 3.5 stars
Monsieur Hire (France, 1989, Cohen Film Collection, Blu-ray, PG-13, 79 min.). This is the first of three films directed by Patrice Leconte and released by Cohen. In this film, the titular character (Michel Blanc) is cool, unpopular with his neighbors, and therefore the prime suspect when a young woman is found murdered near his home and someone runs after him to his building. Hire isn’t the killer, but he does have an uncanny fascination with a younger neighbor (Sandrine Bonnaire as Alice) whose apartment is across the street from his, whom he often watches, even when she’s with her fiancé Emile (Luk Thuillier). The detective is played by Andre Wilms.
During a thunderstorm, Alice eventually discovers Hire staring at her, but unexpectedly becomes the aggressor in their new quasi-relationship, which at times becomes very erotic, amplified by Hire’s controlled desire and sparks while they both attend a boxing match, equal to Emile’s game visited with a buddy.
The film, based on the book by Georges Simenon “Mr. Hire’s Engagement” has come to quite an end. It has something of Alfred Hitchcock’s “back window,” as Bonnaire mentions in her new interview, mixed in with Leconte’s new interview (38:41). Leconte said he always wanted to remake Panique (1946), not knowing that it was based on Simenon’s novel. There is also an audio commentary by critic Wade Major. Rating: film 3.5 stars; Extras 2.75 stars
Felix and Lola/Love Street (France, 2001/2002, Cohen Film Collection, NR, 92/90 min.). This release includes two more films by Patrice Leconte. In the first film, Felix (Philippe Torreton) is a carnival bumper car driver who one day falls under the spell of a seemingly lonely rider (Charlotte Gainsbourg as Lola). He hires her to help him and they soon have an affair. Lola admits people say she looks sad. A couple of times, Lola gets a harmonica as gifts from a singer (Alain Bashung) who she claims to have had a daughter with, which he now forbids her to use.
The film begins with a scene involving the singer and Felix that was intended to be a flash forward halfway through the film. At one point the film goes back and forth between Felix and Lola many times when they are apart. A beautifully filmed scene shows the two together on a roller coaster and gives the viewer the feeling of being on a ride.
The even better “Love Street” is the story of Petit Louis (Patrick Timsit) and Marion (Laetitia Casta), told of a trio of prostitutes waiting under umbrellas in the street during a rainstorm. The story takes place in Paris in 1945 just before the brothels were closed by the government. Louis was born and raised in the Oriental Palace brothel, where he became a handyman. He always felt that there would be one special woman he would take care of and that will be Marion, whom he absolutely loves but doesn’t expect to have his love returned. So, luckily for Marion, he tries to find her the perfect man. Unfortunately, he decides it’s Dimitri (Vincent Elbaz), who turns out to be The Romanian’s gambler, black market doubler and target.
The film, with Eduardo Serra’s cinematography, makes wonderful use of lighting, such as in the women of the palace when everyone is gathered and in the orange forest scenes when the black market traders meet.
Both films have audio commentary by critic Wade Major. Grade: Felix and Lola 3 stars; Love Street 3.5 stars; Additional costs 2.5 stars
Tom Von Malder of Owls Head has been reviewing music since 1972, shortly after graduating from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. He has been reviewing videos/DVDs since 1988.
Ukulele virtuoso on the beach stage