Top Gun: Maverick – Film Review

Director: Joseph Kosinski

Writers: Ehren Kruger, Eric Warren Singer, and Christopher McQuarrie

Starring: Tom Cruise, Miles Teller, Jennifer Connelly, Jon Hamm, Glen Powell, Lewis Pullman, Ed Harris, Val Kilmer

Rating: ★★★★½

It’s been a little over thirty-five years since the first Top Gun, and now after two years of delays the sequel, Top Gun: Maverick, is here and it is really wroth the wait. One of the defining things about the last few years has been legacy sequels, from Star Wars to Ghostbusters, and Top Gun: Maverick may be the best of the bunch.

Tom Cruise steps back into the role of Pete ‘Maverick’ Mitchell, who is now a test pilot for the US Navy, after spending years avoiding promotions. His project is shut down and he’s sent back to Top Gun as an instructor, training and preparing the best of the best for a time sensitive mission that is going to be hard to pull off, especially without losing anyone.

The plot is pretty much exactly what you expect from a Top Gun film. It feels like a continuation of the original in every way, just that everything is that much better. It has all the moments the original you’d expect to return, but perfected. There’s an emotional weight to everything that is surprisingly touching. Another surprise is the humour in the film, which really works. It doesn’t matter that the plot is simple, or that you can guess what’s coming, it’s done so well that you’re just completely invested. It’s also one of those films that, even though it’s a little over two hours, doesn’t feel like any time has passed when it ends.

The actual flight sequences are incredible and absolutely thrilling. It’s no surprise for a Cruise film that the stunts are real, and you can feel it. There are so many incredibly tense moments that will have you on the edge of your seat, with your heart racing. Cruise planned a training course for the rest of the actors to learn how to fly the planes and how to operate the camera while flying. It really pays off, and you can feel that it’s real and looks so much better than the CGIfest we’re used to in big budget blockbusters.

Without a doubt this is Tom Cruise’s best performance in at least twenty years. He’s phenomenal in the film and really reminds you that he’s a great actor as well as a stuntman. Miles Teller is perfectly cast as Rooster, the son of Goose who died in the first film. He looks spot-on and gives a great performance. The rest of the cast are fantastic, with a nice cameo from Val Kilmer, the only other returning character from the first film.

Top Gun: Maverick is one of the best blockbuster films of recent years. It’s story may be simple, but it’s perfectly made and sets a new standard for legacy sequels (something Cruise had already done before with The Colour of Money). There’s nail biting tension, mesmerising sequences and everything else you’d want from a sequel to Top Gun.

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Asadora!, Volume 4 – Manga Review

Volume 4 of Asadora! by Naoki Urasawa is the best volume of the series so far. It starts with another sighting on the kaiju, and then the plan to get the plane out to document it goes wrong as no one is reachable. The whole book is showing all the different characters simultaneously, jumping from plot thread to thread like in a TV show, as their plan starts to roll.

It’s an incredibly fast paced volume of the manga, and even though there’s still chapters, it’s incredibly hard to not read it all in one go. The story is in full force and flows perfectly all the way through, never missing a beat. All of the plot threads from the previous volumes are brought together, and then when you reach the final page everyone is left is a worse scenario than when the volume started with one hell of a cliff-hanger for each of them.

I’ve loved every book in this series, but this is definitely the best one, it’s exciting and has you completed hooked. I was completely lost in the story, reading it as fast as I could but at the same time not wanting it to end, as I don’t have the next volume to jump straight into. Urasawa is just an amazing writer, who has crafted yet another instant classic. It’s a kaiju series where the actual monster hasn’t been properly seen in the four volumes, just glimpses here and there, but there’s still so much mystery. Instead the characters take centre stage and I’m completely hooked on what’s happening, even with Asa’s friends who aren’t part of the main plot just yet. It works as historical fiction, and it works as a mystery kaiju series and I couldn’t ask for more than that. Asadora! is excellent.

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Reading, Writing and Everything Else!

I’ve been posting more manga reviews than usual recently, as you may have noticed. I’m trying to get back into the habit of reading regularly. I was ill a couple of months back and that led me to not reading and I’ve found it very hard to sit down and focus for long periods of times, even when watching films or TV I start feeling very restless. But reading Manga is quick and I’ve had a few good series to catch up on, to get me back into the habit of sitting still for an hour to read something. My hope is to make a dent in my to-read pile pretty soon.

With writing, it’s still the same as last time, I’m not doing enough of it outside of these reviews. I have ideas and things are forming, but it’s taking a lot longer than I’d like. I need to make a schedule and stick to it, but with my actual work I have some shifts that are all over the place and it’s hard to make a concrete routine, which is how I would work best. When I’ve had bigger writing projects before I always wrote at the same time every day.

There are some things that I’m really looking forward to, especially the Kenobi series that comes out on Friday. I’m also going to probably watch Stranger Things, even if I can’t remember a thing about season 3, but the lengths of each episode is putting me off. I’m hoping on Friday I’ll start episode one and just get back into it really quickly. I’ve heard some extremely good things about Top Gun 2, which I’m seeing tomorrow evening. I enjoyed the first one a few years back, but didn’t think it was exceptional, but have high hopes for the new one. Men also comes out next week, and I’m very excited for that. I’ve read some very divisive things about it, so it’s going to be a love it or hate it thing.

That’s my update for this week, I’ll be back tomorrow with another review, I’m just not sure what for yet.

Thanks for reading and until next time,

Ashley

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A Banquet – Film Review

Director: Ruth Paxton

Writer: Justin Bull

Starring: Sienna Guillory, Jessica Alexander, Ruby Stokes, Lindsay Duncan

Rating: ★★

In A Banquet Sienna Guillory stars as Holly, a recently widowed woman who is raising her two children, Betsey (Jessica Alexander) and Isabelle (Ruby Stokes), while avoiding calls from her overbearing mother, June (Lindsay Duncan). It’s a story about grief and mental illness, that’s big on atmosphere but really struggles to keep your attention.

The film opens with a strong and visceral scene with Holly looking after her ill husband, before he commits suicide. The scene focuses on the mundane of Holly cleaning a chair, while her husband is sitting on the bed coughing up everything. The sounds of the cleaning mixing in with his illness. It’s an uncomfortable and unsettling opening that may make people want to stop watching there and then. It instantly sets up an atmosphere that makes you feel like this is going to be hard hitting, and while the shock of his death works really well, the film does nothing to keep that momentum going.

Throughout the film there are moments that come close to the almost body horror opening, with lots of close ups of food, that really make you not want to eat again. The food horror doesn’t feel completely unhinged to make you really feel scared, it just leaves you a little unsettled. The atmosphere the film creates is really great, it’s just the story behind it doesn’t really match it.

Holly’s eldest daughter, Betsey, goes to a party where some friends trick her, and she walks out into the woods and has an existential crisis. Following that she feels nauseous around food and stops eating and also experiences moments where she can’t control her body. Holly becomes worried about what’s happening to her daughter and is worried that it’s psychological, while Betsey believes she’s become enlightened and no longer needs to eat. The film then walks the line between whether Betsey’s experience is real or in her mind, with visits to doctors and a psychiatric hospital.  

While the visuals and atmosphere created in the film are great, the story is incredibly slow paced. It has you hooked with the first scene, but it then just drags on for another ninety minutes until it’s over with a very underwhelming ending. It’s an interesting premise, but really not entertaining to watch.

A Banquet is available on Shudder today – 23rd May 2022

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Sensor – Manga Review

Sensor from Junji Ito is a horror/mystery manga that tells the story of a journalist, Wataru Tsuchiyado, who spends years trying to find out what happened to Kyoko Byakuya, the sole survivor of a volcano eruption who mysteriously disappeared shortly afterwards. It’s a story that reaches into the past and is wrapped in a mystery that the single volume story only begins to unfold.

It’s really hard to summarise the plot to this manga without either giving things away or make it sound a little all over the place. The plot is a little messy, with a hell of a lot put into the 230ish pages, but it doesn’t feel like it when your reading it. Each of the seven chapters feel almost like short stories that are telling the overarching story and because of that it does feel like some elements aren’t explored fully. The whole manga is only one volume, but there’s definitely enough here for more. There are a lot of questions left unanswered, even if the main plot gets a decent, but a little abrupt, ending.

I found the first couple of chapters of Sensor really hard to get into. Some of the writing felt a little clunky and off, but that could be a translation issue, and the story didn’t feel very focused. Reading Junju Ito’s mini-essay about the story at the end of the book, he does mention that he didn’t have a concrete plan and the chatacters seemed to do what they wanted, and it does kind of feel like that at firs. The first chapter shows Kyoko walking at the base of the volcano, not really knowing why. The second chapter then moves over to the reporter and slowly over the next couple of chapters the story starts to settle in.

By the time I was hooked I was almost half way through, thankfully some of the best bits are in the second half. There’s an entire chapter featuring suicide bugs, little bugs that jump under people’s feet so they’ll stand on them. It’s gruesome and creepy, especially when its revealed what they represent. I think that chapter is the best in terms of horror, although there’s another chapter where the reporter is being stalked through reflections that is also haunting.

The art in this story is simply brilliant. Ito is a master of drawing horror, and has a very twisted imagination. There are moments in Sensor where he holds absolutely nothing back, with some of the strangest things you can imagine. There are so many moments in the story where you’ll stop reading and study the details on the page.

Sensor is definitely worth reading for any horror fan. It’s filled with interesting and strange ideas, and once the story does get going it is good. It is a shame that it feels a little rushed in places, but the creepiness is still there and there’s enough chills to make this a fun read.

Thanks for reading! I hope you enjoyed my review, and until next time,

Ashley

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