2022 TV & Movie Reviews: Top Gun: Maverick / Stranger Things / The Flight Attendant / We Own This City

It’s Summer, Folks!

Top Gun: Maverick

I walked into Top Gun: Maverick prepared for the worst because I thoroughly disliked the original. I found the characters to be one-note and the hero, played by Tom Cruise, to be an insufferable, self-obsessed butthead. There’s really no plot, the movie just meanders from one sequence to the next, and the ending fight with the Russians seems so tacked on like they were desperate for something to punctuate it. However, the new Top Gun is so wonderfully self-aware and well-plotted that it makes two hours and a quarter feel like 90 minutes. It’s the most fun I’ve had in theaters since Everything Everywhere All at Once, completely owning its cheesiness and predictability but doing it so goddamn well we just don’t care. Sure, there are several scenes that exist just to stroke the main character’s ego, but it’s done in such a way that’s hilariously self-aware. Even the infamously homoerotic volleyball scene from the original gets an even gayer and more ridiculous upgrade, a beach football game that features a bunch of half-naked men running around, doing tricks with their nipples while the wind blows sand off their happy trails. I laughed so hard, it was wonderful. Then comes the action, jaw-droppingly awesome plane stunts that serve as a refreshing break from all the MCU and other mainstream action movies’ CGI-laden action. The supporting cast of pilots are all extremely charismatic and well played by talented young actors. The weakest part is the Jennifer Connelly love interest storyline, where she plays a local bartender with a young teen daughter. It seems to only exist to solidify Maverick as a father figure and also a guy who fucks. Connelly is solid but the role is presented in a way where like we’re already supposed to know who she is when in reality, it’s the least defined major character in the film. This is a minor complaint seeing as though this is one of the most enjoyable action movies made in the past decade. It’s a textbook example of how to make a formulaic action picture sing. Studio heads should be forced to watch this, make sure to see it in IMAX! Grade: B+ (In Theaters)

Stranger Things (Season 4, Part One)

Yes! So excited to have this back after three long-ass, Covid-fueled years. While Stranger Things hasn’t been truly a great show since its debut season, it’s such a unified crowd-pleaser, and while these later seasons aren’t the deepest stories being told on television, it somehow manages to get you to really care for these characters – who are all back, by the way, looking old AF but whatever. Season 4 Part One is about on par with the previous two seasons in that it’s an enjoyable, solid way to snuff out a weekend. The villain in this season is much spookier and more threatening than ever before, an actual talking villain, instead of a silent spider monster. Even if he’s just an amalgamation of better, more original horror/fantasy baddies to come before him, like Freddy Krueger, Tom Riddle, and that God monster from Michael Mann‘s The Keep. Speaking of Freddy Krueger, Robert Englund has a brief cameo as an important spoiler. Sorry. You’ll just have to wait for the 27-hour mark of this 7-episode “mini” season to find out more. Just kidding, this season isn’t THAT long, but these individual episodes are fucking long (between 70 and 90 minutes each), and you really feel it. There are great 45-minute episodes in here, but it seems the Duffer Boys are straining to find something for every one of the 20-something main characters to do. Half of these storylines pan out to something interesting, while the other half slog down the proceedings with unnecessary basketball games and Gelman and Winona doing “comedic bits”?. Season 4 really wastes last season’s MVP, Maya Hawke, by making her just be reactionary to Nancy, the show’s least interesting character, four years running. Jonathan Byers’ storyline might be the worst of all though, essentially he got really into pot and just hangs out with Poochie from The Simpsons all day. Pauly Shore is also in this season, or at least someone who looks a lot like him, playing a very stereotypical metal dude who hates big government and studying math. He gets better as the season progresses, but at first him, along with a bunch of other new characters, just seems tacked on. The kids all get interesting stuff to do this year, with this season’s MVP going to Sadie Sink as Max who gives a legit fantastic performance. After a 98-minute midseason finale, which oddly enough feels like the shortest episode of the bunch, we of course conclude with a solid cliffhanger that has me more than a little excited to see how these next two final mega episodes shake out in early July. Grade: B (Netflix)

The Flight Attendant (Season Two)

After a really enjoyable but far from great debut season, The Flight Attendant, the mild cheddar option of TV thrillers, is back and more or less the same quality as before. There’s a decent mystery this year and we get a handful of solid guest appearances from Sharon Stone as Cassie’s mom to Oscar-nominee Shohreh Aghdashloo as Cassie’s sponsor and even Jessie Ennis, really funny and unnerving here as a very lonely person Cassie meets in AA. Of course, Kaley Cuoco continues to be the best part of this show by a wide margin, elevating so many moments that would otherwise fall flat with a lesser performer. It becomes very much a tease though, to see an actress nail a role so hard and continually manage to add additional layers to this character, only to be met with a show that can’t fully support all the dimensions of said character. It attempts to go deep but just doesn’t go deep enough. I suspect that would throw off the balance of comedy to drama, seeing as though this is primarily an adventure comedy. One that is breezy, and fun, and every now and then when it threatens to become too complicated, dumbs itself down again. It’s a great show to watch if you WFH. That client call can wait, Rosie Perez is in Korea! Grade: B- (HBOMax)

We Own This City

Photograph by Paul Schiraldi/HBO Rob Brown, Ham Mukasa, Robert Harley, Jon Bernthal HBO WARNERMEDIA HBO & HBO Max | TCA | Winter 2022 We Own This City

The grand authority of all things Baltimore, David Simon, is back to tell another story about crime and police corruption in his hometown, almost fifteen years after The Wire concluded. Nobody does crime shows like Simon, who often feels more like an educator than an entertainer. If that sounds like a dig, it is surely not, the dude has found a way to educate us on the way the police and government systems work in this city but it never feels like a lesson. You’re so caught up in the meticulous attention to detail and overwhelming realism of the characters, you don’t even notice. The Wire was about the city as a whole from the police to the street to the government to even the public school system. We Own This City has a much narrower approach, which tells a true story over the course of six episodes, about a special police task force with a mission of taking illegally procured firearms off the street. Unfortunately, the team was comprised of the biggest crooks within the department, and what started out as standard police brutality (awful, but standard) warped into them straight up stealing money from citizens and re-selling the drugs they seized for profit. While this was all going on, the FBI was investigating them along with DOJ’s civil rights division. Like all of Simon‘s work, We Own This City doesn’t spoon-feed you anything like most dramatic true crime stories. Much like The Wire, there are no clean endings for any character, the show just stops once the trial starts and concludes. It also quite powerfully details how so many high-ranking officials involved in the city, from police commissioners to fucking mayors, were essentially thieves and power abusers who ended up going to prison. It also features an amazing cast with the standouts being Wunmi Mosaku as the civil rights attorney and Jon Berenthal and Josh Charles as a pair of dirty cops. Sometimes it has the tendency to become a bit overcomplicated in its anachronistic presentation of events, but eventually, by the end, everything really lines up clearly for the viewer. This isn’t just great television, it’s essential crime reporting. Grade: A- (HBOMax)

Also Streaming and In Theaters…

TV

Atlanta on Hulu

Better Call Saul (Season 6, Part One)AMC+

Atlanta (Season 3)Hulu

The Kids in the Hall (Season 6)Amazon Prime

Heartstopper (Season 1)Netflix

Severance (Season 1)AppleTV+

Pachinko on AppleTV+

Pachinko (Season 1) – AppleTV+

Bad VeganNetflix

Worst Roommate Ever (Season 1)Netflix

Tokyo Vice (Season 1)HBOMax

Russian Doll (Season 2) Netflix

The Gilded Age on HBOMax

Euphoria (Season 2)HBOMax

The Righteous Gemstones (Season 2)HBOMax

Somebody Somewhere (Season 1)HBOMax

The Gilded Age (Season 1)HBOMax

The Sopranos HBOMax

Movies

Malignant on HBOMax

Everything Everywhere All at Once (A-) – In Theaters

Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness (C+) – In Theaters

The Card Counter (B) – HBOMax

Men (B-) – In Theaters

Malignant (?) – HBOMax

Drive My Car on HBOMax

Old (C-) – HBOMax

Drive My Car (A) – HBOMax

No Sudden Move (C) – HBOMax

The Little Things (D+) – HBOMax

Nightmare Alley (D+) – HBOMax and Hulu

Pig on Hulu

Pig (A-) – Hulu

Flee (B) – Hulu

In the Earth (C+) – Hulu

Willy’s Wonderland (B-) – Hulu

Benedetta (B+) – Hulu

The Power of the Dog on Netflix

The Lost Daughter (B) – Netflix

The Power of the Dog (A-) – Netflix

Don’t Look Up (C-) – Netflix

Bad Trip (C) – Netflix

Passing (B) – Netflix

Freddy’s Nightmares

Freddy’s Nightmares (Season 1)Screambox

Freddy’s Nightmares (Season 2)Screambox

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