Showing posts with label Andy Warhol. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Andy Warhol. Show all posts

Thursday, July 14, 2022

"Top Gun: Maverick" and The Week in Reviews

[I review the movie "Top Gun: Maverick," as well as the TV series "WeCrashed," and "The Andy Warhol Diaries." The Book of the Week is "Trailed: One Woman's Quest to Solve the Shenandoah Murders" by Kathryn Miles]

Top Gun: Maverick (2022)

Thirty-six years later, Pete "Maverick" Mitchell is back and still pushing the envelope.

I have to confess at the outset that I have been a big Tom Cruise fan from the very beginning, ever since I saw him playing the bad guy, or kid, in "Taps." That was only his second movie, but I knew he had something special.  This was before he danced in his undies in "Risky Business," before "Mission Impossible," before "You complete me."  I knew he had that star quality early on, and he was a handsome devil too!  I have been a fan ever since, despite Scientology, despite his occasional irritability with reporters who ask him questions he doesn't like (don't ask about Nicole!), despite my disappointment when I found out he was short. 

I have seen every movie Tom has ever made (I get to call him Tom because I have been a fan for so long), so naturally I had to see this one.  Not to mention, I had heard it was really good.  

It's been 36 years since the first "Top Gun," so you might want to watch that one again before seeing this sequel.  But if, like me, you aren't going to, here is a bit of a synopsis: 

U.S. Naval Aviator Pete "Maverick" Mitchell (Cruise) and LTJG Nick "Goose" Bradshaw (Anthony Edwards), stationed in the Indian Ocean, fly the F-14A Tomcats.  They are sent to attend TOPGUN, the Naval Fighter Weapons School in San Diego, where Maverick turns out to be a bit of a, er, maverick, and flies recklessly, putting him at odds with the other pilots, especially his fellow pilot, the Iceman (Val Kilmer). Goose dies in an accident for which Maverick is blamed and later cleared but he feels guilty and considers quitting.  But we know he won't, because he's Tom Cruise, I mean, Maverick.  He eventually redeems himself during a tense international crisis where amazing aerial acrobatics occur and, at the end, when given a choice of assignments, Maverick chooses to become a TOPGUN instructor. you are caught up.

What's next for our Maverick?

Over thirty years later, Pete has shown himself to be a top aviator.  He is now a test pilot but in true Maverick fashion he has pushed the envelope once again, and instead of being disciplined, he is sent back to TOPGUN, this time to help the new and young fighter pilots complete a very difficult mission.

One of the enemies of the U.S. (you can pick which one) is working on a uranium enrichment plant and that's a no-no so we have to take it out.  However, it's in a very difficult place, between two mountains with all kinds of rockets and faster jets protecting it, so the Iceman, who is now Maverick's friend and an Admiral, has called upon Maverick to train and decide which of the best of these best young pilots is up to the task.  However, there is a slight problem.  One of the pilots is Rooster (Miles Teller), who just happens to be Goose's son, and he has not forgiven Maverick for the death of his Dad.

I probably didn't really need to give you a synopsis of the first one. With a screenplay by Ehren Kruger, Eric Warren Singer and Christopher McQuarrie and direction by Joseph Kosinski, this is basically a 21st Century rehash of it: two brash, young pilots once again competing against each other, throwing smack around, just as Maverick and Iceman had done, but this time it's Rooster and Hangman (Glen Powell). There is also the requisite romance for Maverick and, once again, a beach volleyball game under the guise of team building, but we all know it's just a way to see those handsome, fit bodies running around on the beach. The "Danger Zone" theme music is even on hand. 

I have to admit that this is not necessarily my kind of movie.  

I am not particularly into military stuff or airplanes, and I definitely am not into macho posturing and overdramatic dialogue like "The end is inevitable, Maverick.  Your kind is headed for extinction." "Maybe so, sir. But not today." There is a lot of that. There is also the requisite romance with the beautiful Penny (Jennifer Connelly), because Tom has to have someone to flash those pearly whites at and there are also some far-fetched plot choices.  But I give the film props for its depiction of friendship and loyalty, and I have to say, despite my reservations during some of the film, the last thirty minutes, as the pilots tried to complete their mission, was heart pumping and exciting due to the aerial acrobatics, slick editing and "practical effects." That made up for any criticism I had before that. And it didn't hurt when Tom showed up in his Navy whites. That was spectacular too! 

When I use the term "practical effects," I am referring to the fact that most of those exciting aerial sequences were actually real planes flying around with the actors in the cockpits, though they were not flying the planes. It was not CGI. Tom is known for doing his own stunts and required the actors to have grueling training to take part and it certainly worked.  It's very much a "you are there" feeling during those scenes.

Speaking of Tom, he just doesn't seem to age, and it is mind bloggling that he is still doing his own stunts at 60.  Nor does Jennifer Connolly look any older than I remember her from her earlier films.  Sadly, she doesn't have much to do here except look beautiful and flirt with Tom, but she is still a welcome presence. I am always glad when 50-year-old actresses get work and actors like Tom romance age-appropriate women. Miles Teller and Glenn Powell do a good job of picking up the reins left by the young Cruise and Val Kilmer.  And speaking of Kilmer, so glad to see him here but bittersweet considering what has happened to him.  

Rosy the Reviewer says...I usually hate sequels but I'm going to give this one a break because, for one thing, it's been 36 years, and for another, the editing and aerial sequences lived up to the hype. I was on the edge of my seat. (in theatres)

***Now Streaming***

WeCrashed (2022)

The story of the rise and fall of WeWork.

I feel like I am the only one in the world who didn't know about WeWork but this eight-part miniseries created by Drew Crevello and Lee Eisenberg now streaming on Apple+ gave me an education in a most enjoyable way.

WeWork was a company that offered coworking space and under the leadership of Adam and Rebekah Neumann, was valued at $47 billion in 2019 before famously crashing.  Based on the podcast "WeCrashed: The Rise and Fall of WeWork" by Wondery, the series stars Jared Leto and Anne Hathaway as the Neumanns, two narcissists who through shear force of will made WeWork work...until it didn't.

Adam Neumann's gift was to talk so much and so fast that he would get his way.  He was one of those people so sure of himself that he was able to convince everyone else he knew what he was doing.  He thought big and went for it.  Rebekah was more of a whiney New Age girl who wanted to "elevate the world's consciousness." She also wanted to be an actress, so Adam bought her a theatre.  Then she wanted to have a more important role in the company so Adam gave her the title of Chief Branding Officer.  Then she wanted to start a school so... voila!  The two were madly in love but they were also madly mad and that was ultimately what brought them down.  That and some under the desk machinations.

Jared Leto as Adam Neumann is just astounding. He never ceases to amaze me. Is there nothing Jared Leto can't do when it comes to acting?  He was unrecognizable in "The House of Gucci" - in a good way - and here he embodies Adam Neumann in looks and accent.  But just saying that doesn't seem like enough.  Whatever Jared Leto does he goes all in and I go with him.  Hathaway is also wonderful here playing a rather unlikable character but making her real and vulnerable.  The acting alone is the reason to watch this miniseries but the story  is also fascinating.  It's an inside look into the world of startups and how quickly it can all go wrong.

Rosy the Reviewer times this show was above my mental pay grade when it came to the ins and outs of the business financial world e.g. IPO's, S-1's, etc. but that doesn't mean I didn't enjoy it.  I did.  The story is engrossing and the acting is phenomenal. (Apple+)

The Andy Warhol Diaries (2022)

Andy Warhol speaking from the grave.

Does anyone remember what happened to artist Andy Warhol after he was famously shot in 1968? I realized watching this six-part mini-series that I really didn't.  I didn't have the slightest idea what he was up to after that.  And he was up to a lot.

One of our most successful contemporary artists, Warhol was famous for his Campbell's soup cans and portraits of celebrities. He embraced silkscreening, film, photography and sculpture and commented on celebrity culture through his work. He said "In the future, everyone will be world famous for 15 minutes," a profound statement considering he said that before the rise of the Internet where that has actually happened.  But for all of his fame, Warhol remained a rather enigmatic figure, more of an observer than a participant, but after the shooting, Warhol was feeling vulnerable and less relevant, so he started to reinvent himself in some very odd and interesting ways.

This docuseries directed by Andrew Rossi does a brief overview of Andy's early life and then concentrates on his life after the shooting. Often thought to be asexual, the series explores Warhol's long-term relationship with Jed Johnson, which eventually failed, and then his obsession with Paramount executive Jon Gould.  Andy explored the club scene, modeling, drag, went on "Saturday Night Live" and "The Love Boat," forged a relationship with the young artist Basquiat and took on his last commission honoring The Last Supper, all in the shadow of the AIDS epidemic.  And then Andy died unexpectedly at the age of 58.  And no, he didn't die of AIDS.

Practically everything in this docuseries was news to me, and I was actually a Warhol fan. From executive producer Ryan Murphy and based on the 1989 book edited by Pat Hackett, Andy "narrates" his own diary entries as his personal life plays out on screen with additional insight provided by experts, associates and others who knew him. Andy's "voice" is actually produced through artificial intelligence (voiced by Bill Irwin) and the use of AI was approved by the Andy Warhol Foundation, something which the series is careful to remind us during each episode.

Does this series shed light on the real Andy Warhol?  Maybe not.  But hearing his own words is probably as close as we will get.

Rosy the Reviewer says...whether you were a fan of Andy Warhol or not, this is a fascinating documentary focusing on a fascinating life played out during that fascinating time called The 80's. (Netflix)

***The Book of the Week***

Trailed: One Woman's Quest to Solve the Shenandoah Murders by Kathryn Miles (2022)

The true crime story of the unsolved murders of Lollie Winans and Julie Williams, who were both murdered in the Shenandoah National Park in 1996.

Lollie Winans and Julie Williams were two young women who met and fell in love over their mutual love of backpacking in the wilderness.  In May of 1996, the two went on a week-long backpacking trip to the Shenandoah National Park where they pitched their tent in a remote spot. When the pair did not return home as planned, park rangers discovered their campsite, their tent slashed and the women dead in their sleeping bags.

Miles, an award-winning journalist and outdoorsperson herself, became obsessed with the case, and during her research, uncovered conflicting evidence, a botched investigation and a suspect who was hounded his whole life as the person who murdered Lollie and Julie. Miles became convinced he didn't do it. Then who did?  Along with her one-woman investigation, Miles does a good job of presenting Lollie's and Julie's stories. You care about these women and you want to find out why they were murdered.

It's difficult to believe that as late as the 1990's there were still laws in the books in many states against homosexuality.  Was the murder of Lollie and Julie a hate crime?

Rosy the Reviewer says...if you like true crime nonfiction, this is for you.  It's a page-turner.

Thanks for reading!

See you again soon!

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