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Footloose (2011)
Footloose (2011)
2011 | Comedy, Drama, Musical
7.7 (7 Ratings)
Movie Rating
Public dancing is against the law in the small religious town of Bomont. But Boston-raised teenager, Ren McCormack and the Reverend’s daughter Ariel have other ideas in this remake of the 1984 classic.

The original “Footloose” requires a 1980s mindset and was successful partially due the disjointed storytelling of teen films during that era. Up until now it could be said that there is no “Footloose” without Kevin Bacon. But surprise! The remake is so good that you may need to step back.

The cast is more polished than the original, particularly in lead female role of Ariel Moore brought back to the screen by Julianne Hough. Hough’s performance is more engaging than that of the original portrayal by Lori Singer. Taking the reigns of the role that made Kevin Bacon famous is Kenny Wormald as city boy Ren. Wormald wears the role with charm and the required “Footloose” too-cool-for-school style.

Reverend Shaw Moore, now played by Dennis Quaid, is far more emotional than the original depiction of the character first played by a John Lithgow. However, the same cannot be said for his wife, Vi Moore, with a disappointing performance from Andy McDowell. This is balanced however by the truly enjoyable portrayal of Ren’s best friend Willard by the well-timed comedy of Miles Teller.

Yes, there were cheesy moments. There was even a sunset so over the top that it may remind you Star Wars buffs of a certain lengthy romance scene in Episode Two. And yes, more than one of the reanimated lines from the classic film was forced. But the flubs were few and far between as this “Footloose” remake manages to succeed in many places where the original could have been improved.

The explanation of tragedy that originally befell Bomont has been extended, giving the town’s anti-dance perspective a little more sway. And this time around “Footloose” directly addresses a number of the small town versus big city stereotypes with strong dual sided humor.

The new “Footloose” still has less dancing then you want from a film entirely about dance, but when it does occur the style is much more diverse, ranging from hip hop to that famous “Footloose” country. There were things missed from the original; particularly the precision of Bacon’s solo dance scene, but this remake honors the impact of the original while standing on its own.

Now where do you buy a pair of red cowboy boots?!
Fantastic Four (2015)
Fantastic Four (2015)
2015 | Action
An absolute snooze
Here comes yet another superhero film. Ending Marvel’s year that has included the charming Big Hero 6, the overstuffed Avengers: Age of Ultron and the surprisingly excellent Ant-Man, the Fox produced Fantastic Four reboot has a tough job trying to get audiences to forget the horror that came before it.

It’s been a tough ride for the quartet of heroes, but does director Josh Trank’s modern day reimagining of Marvel’s first team do enough to change perceptions?

Not by a long shot. Despite some excellent special effects, this yawnfest of a film that was plagued by rumours of constant behind-the-scenes tension and last-minute editing doesn’t have an ounce of originality in its short 100 minute running time.

Miles Teller (Insurgent), Kate Mara (Transcendence), Michael B. Jordan (Chronicle) and Jamie Bell (Billy Elliot) take on the roles of Reed Richards, Sue Storm, Johnny Storm and Ben Grimm respectively and are fine, if lacking in any real chemistry.

Fantastic Four is above all, an origins story as the four young adults try to crack interdimensional travel. Naturally, things don’t go quite to plan and they, alongside fellow colleague Victor Von Doom end up with an unusual set of powers – with Doom becoming the main antagonist.

Unfortunately, the plot, devised by no less than three writers is a complete bore. There is hardly anything of interest throughout the entire film as Trank pushes his cast from one underwhelming set piece to another.

When things do get tense, it’s only for a five minute scene involving Doom breaking out of a research facility. This is when we get to see what Fantastic Four could’ve been, a dark and brooding film with a disturbing villain at its core.

However, it seems this has been pushed back to make way for an unusually flat sense of humour and an uninteresting origins story. Marvel films live and die on their comedic elements and unfortunately Fantastic Four is as poor as they come.

Nevertheless, the film’s special effects are on the whole, very good. The other dimension looks fantastic and The Thing in particular is rendered using excellent motion capture animation.

An underwhelming climax wraps up a bitterly disappointing outing for the four heroes. Most superhero films end with a spectacular showdown of good versus evil but Fantastic Four has none of this. The ending is clichéd, short and has no real payoff.

Overall, expectations were already low for this reboot and despite director Josh Trank’s obvious talent for direction, this talent is nowhere to be found in Fantastic Four.

A cast that doesn’t gel together, a poor soundtrack and a lack of tonal balance ensures it will rest alongside X-Men Origins: Wolverine as proof that Marvel Studios needs the rights to all of its heroes returning to it.
Top Gun: Maverick (2022)
Top Gun: Maverick (2022)
2022 | Action, Drama
The very definition of "Summer Flick"
There is absolutely no denying it - TOP GUN: MAVERICK is the very definition of a “Summer Blockbuster” movie - the kind of film that will appeal to a wide variety of audiences who want nothing more than to escape into a world of heroes (and villains), good vs. evil, with lots of fast chases and things exploding.

And that is just what you get with the sequel to the 1986 hit - a summer blockbuster, which will do well at the box office - just don’t expect tricky plot developments or in-depth character examinations. The plot and the characters are just there to deliver the blockbuster goods.

Bringing back the main character from the first TOP GUN film, Tom Cruise as Captain Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, TOP GUN: MAVERICK shows Maverick 30 years (or so) after the events of the first film with “just one more” mission to go. Maverick is brought back to train a dozen hot-shot pilots, including one that is the son of his best friend - a friend who’s death Maverick has been traumatized by during the past 30 years.

Cruise, of course, is perfect in this role. He has the right blend of arrogance and charisma to pull of the fine balance needed between these two traits. Jennifer Connelly is on board as the requisite love interest and she more than holds her own with Cruise in what is an underwritten role as are all of the roles in this film by writer Peter Craig (BAD BOYS FOR LIFE) with Direction by Joseph Kosinski (OBLIVION).

Miles Teller (the son of the man who Maverick is mourning, who blames Maverick for his dad’s death), John Hamm (the a-hole boss that thinks that Maverick is “writing checks his body can’t cash”), Glen Powell (the arrogant young hot shot) and the rest are all one-note caricatures that leaves the audience not really caring about their fate.

Only Val Kilmer (reprising his role as “Iceman” from the first movie) comes out of this unscathed for his character is suffering from throat cancer and cannot speak above a whisper (much like Kilmer in real life). It was good to see him on the big screen again.

But…you don’t come to this film for the characters, you come to this picture for the high-flying action sequences, and…in the last part of this film…you get ‘em in spades! Unfortunately, you get way too LITTLE action in the first part of this film, it’s mostly nostalgic fond remembrances of the first film, so I found myself wriggling in my seat waiting for the action that I knew was to come.

It’s the perfect summer movie and one that is far more superior being seen on the big screen. It is the type of flick that one doesn’t have to pay to close attention to, but when it does grab your attention, it does it well…enough.

If you have the need…the need for speed…you can do much worse than TOP GUN: MAVERICK.

Letter Grade: B

 7 stars (out of 10) and you can take that to the Bank(ofMarquis)
Top Gun: Maverick (2022)
Top Gun: Maverick (2022)
2022 | Action, Drama
Back in 1987, Tom Cruise and Paramount released “Top Gun” and in doing so created a cultural phenomenon that launched Cruise into Superstardom and became an enduring classic.

Now after decades away and delays due to the pandemic, Cruise has returned to the franchise with “Top Gun: Maverick” and has crafted the rare feat, of a sequel that is not only better than the original but also gives audiences an edge of the seat summer event film when it is needed the most.

Cruise stars as Captain Pete Mitchell who after thirty years is not only haunted by his past but unable to shed his insubordinate and impulsive ways which have kept him from reaching the rank of Admiral and have moved him from one assignment to another.

After his latest action confirms his incredible aviation skills but infuriates the upper brass in the process, Mitchell is out of options as he is unwilling to retire, unable to be promoted, and out of posting options. He is tasked by an old friend with enough clout to watch out for him to return to the Top Gun program as an instructor. Mitchell is hesitant as his last attempt as an instructor did not last long and he believes he is better suited to fly versus teaching.

It is learned that an enemy faction is about to open a Uranium enrichment facility in violation of established law that would threaten the region, and Mitchell is tasked with training a team of Top Gun graduates in three weeks who can make what appears to be a near-impossible assault on the facility to destroy it before it becomes a threat.

While the assembled pilots represent a brash and talented group, Mitchell must contend with the ghosts of his past as one of the members Bradley ‘Rooster’ Bradshaw (Miles Teller), is the son of his deceased friend Goose and has a very fractured relationship with Bradshaw over their shared past.

With pressure on him from Admiral Simpson (Jon Hamm), Mitchell must somehow find a way to train the group in a small amount of time for what is considered by many to be an impossible mission due to the terrain, defenses, and location of their target.

The film is an edge-of-the-seat adrenaline rush that grabs ahold of you from the start and never lets up. From the opening music to the intense aerial sequences, the audience was hooked as gasps and cheers erupted frequently as the characters and action clearly connected with the audience.

While the visual sequences are nothing short of spectacular, the film is a character-based story and there is a depth to Mitchell and many of the cast that goes much deeper than one would normally see in a summer action film.

Jennifer Connelly offers a great counter-point to Mitchell as a person from his past that has known him through several key moments of his career and helps him endure the turbulent emotions that he has.

From the solid characters and story to the rousing final segments of the movie, “Top Gun: Maverick” returns the Summer Event film in grand style and exceeded my expectations and the original in every way.
Ready Player One (2018)
Ready Player One (2018)
2018 | Sci-Fi
Virtually brilliant with Easter Eggs a plenty.
Of all the Spielberg films of recent years – and possibly with the exception of “The BFG” – this was the film whose trailer disconcerted me the most. It really looked dire: CGI over heart; gimmicks over substance. I was right about ‘The BFG”, one of my least favourite Spielberg flicks. I was definitely wrong about “Ready Player One”: it’s a blast.

The film is fun in continually throwing surprises at you, including those actors not included in the trailer and only on small print on the poster. So I won’t spoil that here for you (you can of course look them up on imdb if you want to: but I suggest you try to see this one ‘cold’).

It’s 2044, and the majority of the population have taken the next logical step of video gaming and virtual reality and retreated into their own headsets, living out their lives primarily as avatars within the fanciful landscapes of “The Oasis”. You can “be” anyone and (subject to gaining the necessary credits) “do” anything there.

When the housing market is stacked against you. Columbus Ohio circa 2044.
The Oasis was the brainchild of a (Steve Wozniak-like) genius called James Halliday (played in enormous style by “Actor R”) and supported by his (Steve Jobs-like) business partner Ogden Morrow (“Actor P”). The two had a big falling out leaving Halliday in total control of the Oasis. But he died, and his dying “game” was to devise a devious competition that left a trail of three virtual keys in the Oasis leading to an ‘easter egg’: which if found would provide the finder with total ownership of the Oasis and the trillions of dollars that it is worth.

But the game is not only played by amateur “gunters” (egg-hunters) like our hero Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan, “X-Men: Apocalypse“) and his in-Oasis flirting partner Samantha (Olivia Cooke, “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl”); there are big corporate game-hunters involved like IoI (that’s eye-oh-eye, not one-oh-one as I assumed from the trailer) who fill warehouses with combinations of nerd-consultants and professional game players to try to find the keys before anyone else. Which hardly seems fair does it? Ruthless boss Sorrento (Ben Mendelsohn, “Rogue One“) and his tough-as-nails hench-woman F’Nale Zandor (Hannah John-Kamen, “Tomb Raider“) really couldn’t give a toss!

In the future, everyone is reaching out for something.
What follows is two-hours of high-octane game-play and eye-popping 3D (it is good in 3D by the way) that melds a baseline of “Avatar” with soupçons of “Tron”, “Minority Report” and Dan Brown novels. But its a blend that works.

I was afraid as I said that CGI would squash flat any hope of character development and story, and – yes – to be sure this is ‘suppressed’ a bit. You never get to really know many of the ‘pack’ members to any great level other than Wade and Samantha. And exactly what drives the corporate protagonists, other than “corporate greed”, is not particularly clear. What gives the film heart though are the performances of “Actor P” and (particularly) “Actor R”, who again steals every scene he is in. For their limited screen time together, the pair bounce off each other in a delightful way.

I have to make a confession at this point that I spent the whole film thinking “Miles Teller is way too old for the part of Wade”! Tye Sheridan (who I think *does* bear a likeness!) is actually much more age appropriate, and is fine in the role. But the star performance for me, out of the youngsters at least, was Oldham’s-own Olivia Cooke, who has a genuinely magnetic screen presence. She is most definitely a name to watch for the future.

Ready Player One
Young star of the show for me – Olivia Cooke as Samantha.
Lena Waithe (“Master of None”) plays Wade’s inventor friend Helen.

The story, although simple and quite one-dimensional, in the main intrigues: there is nothing like a Mario-style chase for keys to entertain when it is done well (I am so old and crusty that in my day it was “Manic Miner” on a ZX-Spectrum!).

He’s iron and he’s just gigantic! Reb’s creation becomes a force to be reckoned with when needed.
And there’s not just one “Easter Egg” in this film: the film is rammed to the rafters with throwbacks to classic pop-culture icons of past decades, and particularly the 80’s…. the film could have been subtitled “I ❤ 80’s”. Some of these are subliminal (Mayor Goldie Wilson anyone?), and others are more prominent but very clever: “The Zemekis cube” and “The Holy Hand Grenade” being prime examples. This is a film that deserves buying on Blu-ray and then slo-mo-ing through! The nostalgia extends to the music by Alan Silvestri, with occasional motifs from his most famous soundtrack!

For me though, the highspot of the film is a journey into a recreation of a classic ’80’s film which – while a scary sequence, earning for sure its 12A UK rating – is done with verve and chutzpah.

Wade’s avatar, Parzival.
Although a little overlong (2 hours 20 mins) and getting rather over-blown and LOTR-esque in the finale, the ending is very satisfying – roll on Tuesdays and Thursdays!

Spielberg’s recent films have been largely solid and well-constructed watches (“The Post” and “Bridge of Spies” for example) but they have been more niche than mainstream box office draws. I firmly predict that “Ready Player One” will change that: here Spielberg has a sure-fire hit on his hands and word of mouth (rather than the ho-hum trailer) should assure that.