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I Watched Top Gun with Val Kilmer at a Military Base

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I’ll just get this out of the way up top, but know that I’m going somewhere with this; I’ve never liked Top Gun. Naturally, those lovers of the 80s classic are welcome to sharpen those pitchforks now, but hear me out. I watched the movie once in my youth and a whole lot of mainstream 80s pop culture just missed the mark with me in my earlier years. I had never taken the time to revisit the 1986 fighter pilot flick that cemented Tom Cruise as a superstar and helped to put Val Kilmer on the map. But I recently revisited the movie in a pretty special setting and, admittedly, I get it now.

The Alamo Drafthouse recently put on one of its Rolling Roadshow experiences for Top Gun. Essentially, the theater chain picks a movie, then screens said movie at a location that ties into it and tapers an experience to tie it all together. In this case, it was screened at the Camp Mabry military installation in Austin, Texas, and yes, there were volleyball nets set up. But most importantly, Iceman himself, Val Kilmer was in attendance. The actor is currently battling throat cancer, but he was still energetic and charismatic as ever. The 59-year-old star took the stage ahead of the screening to help introduce it and, though he had difficulty speaking, the charm was there. The energy was palpable. This crowd was ever so ready to enter the Danger Zone.

On a personal level, I had no idea what to feel heading into it. It’s an odd thing. We often categorize something in our brains as “not good” and, simply because we have so many choices these days, rarely take the time to revisit those things to see if our opinions on them have changed. In this case, I was willing to see if I could figure out what has helped this movie endure for more than three decades.

Related: Maverick Prepares to Fly in First Top Gun 2 Poster

Upon the first Kenny Loggins music cue, my cynicism started to win out. I sank into my chair and was fully prepared to let the cheese drench me for two hours. But about five minutes in, something interesting happened. The unparalleled direction of the late Tony Scott kicked in. Setting aside the beloved yet undeniably corny soundtrack, that initial dog fight starts to unfold. It’s tense. It’s funny. It’s got stakes. It’s thrilling to look at. Charisma oozes from the screen, even though the main actors have their faces covered. I started to care. I started to get wrapped up in this mess.

Really, most of the movie unfolded that very same way. I would hear yet another Danger Zone music cue (I believe I counted six in total) and roll my eyes. Yet, I was always pleasantly surprised at what was unfolding on screen. Even outside of the fighter jet sequences, there was a heart to this beloved piece of pop culture. It certainly doesn’t hurt that Tony Scott, that man who would go on to direct movies like True Romance, Spy Game and Man on Fire, was showcasing his skillset. It just happened to be covered in 80s cheese which, at times, makes it difficult to detect.

In any event, I started to understand. One of my biggest takeaways, though, was pondering the star who made the journey to watch this movie with the crows. Yes, Tom Cruise, at this point, is every inch the movie star audiences still turn up to see all these years later. There’s a reason this helped to launch his career. But Val Kilmer, as over the top as Iceman can be, brings a much-needed perspective to this whole thing. He’s wingman to the star at the top of the call sheet. He’s Chewie. He’s Rick Dalton to Cliff Booth. Say it however you want to say it. Kilmer is the ultimate wingman.

Looking back at his career, in movies such as Heat, Tombstone and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Val Kilmer is always there to be that guy. Be the loyal and trusty man by the protagonist’s side. And he’s incredible at it. Ultimately, Top Gun isn’t going to go down as a beloved movie in my personal rankings, but this special experience undoubtedly led me to a sense of understanding. To put it another way, I’ll say this much; I’m all in for the sequel. Top Gun: Maverick is set to hit theaters on June 26, 2020 from Paramount Pictures, and I’ll be there.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Movieweb.

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Rise of Skywalker Death Star Mystery Solved in Older Star Wars Book?

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The Rise of Skywalker trailer provided us with our first hint at the return of the iconic Death Star. Since then, there have been a flood of questions about which Death Star it actually is. J.J. Abrams and Lucasfilm have been doing an excellent job keeping everything under wraps, so we probably won’t really know until the movie hits theaters later this year. Thankfully, an older Star Wars novel from 2017 may provide some tips as to which Death Star is being teased in The Rise of Skywalker trailer.

The Star Wars book Aftermath: Life Debt was written by Chuck Wendig and released in 2017. In the book, there is a chapter about the Alderaanians that were “off world when the planet got destroyed,” during the events of A New Hope. After the Empire fell, they gathered together and “settled in the system on a flotilla of ships.” The chapter in question ends with “Leia gifting them (Alderaanians) the remains of the first Death Star to build a permanent space station in the system out of it.”

Since the first Death Star pieces were given away, it’s safe to assume that it’s all gone. This leads us to the second Death Star, which has been the prevalent theory amongst Star Wars fans. There have been some who believe that the planet shown in The Rise of Skywalker trailer is Yavin IV, but it’s beginning to look like it really is Endor, especially considering how close the Death Star was to the planet when it was taken out. The second Death Star is also where Emperor Palpatine was killed, which brings everything back together.

Related: Official Rise of Skywalker Synopsis Teases New Legends & Final Battle for Freedom

With Emperor Palpatine returning in Rise of Skywalker, the second Death Star seems to make the most sense. The ruins could be where Palpatine is possibly resurrected in the upcoming movie, though we’re not sure how at this time. And if this is indeed Endor that we’re looking at, we will undoubtedly end up seeing some elderly Ewoks. J.J. Abrams isn’t going to just bring us back to Endor for some Death Star ruins. He’ll have to have a couple of the little furry dudes running around too, at least for a moment.

Has Emperor Palpatine been haunting the Death Star ruins on Endor for all of this time? This could very well be the case, though there are a number of ways the Emperor could have returned. As for the Death Star, it will be interesting to see how this all fits into the current trilogy and how J.J. Abrams incorporates it into the storyline. For now, we’ll just have to wait, but there are some pretty huge teases in the Rise of Skywalker promotional footage. Speaking of which, we should have a new trailer out sometime next month, so perhaps there will be more information there. The chapter breakdown from Aftermath: Life Debt was first revealed on Reddit.

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Aquarela Review: A Mesmerizing Water Documentary

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Aquarela‘s singular focus is the unrelenting power of water. Filmed at a mesmerizing 96 frames per second, Aquarela spans the globe showing the effects of climate change to life’s primary element. Russian director Victor Kossakovsky takes you on a stark and visceral journey. His documentary has zero narration, mere crumbs of dialogue, and no cohesive plot structure. It can be hypnotic and terrifying at times, but also noisy and overly abstract in long stretches. Aquarela is certainly a unique cinema experience.

The film begins with striking imagery of glaciers crumbling into the sea. The high frame rate allows for ultra crisp slow motion shots. Sheets of ice smash into each other and the water with thundering booms. The visuals are accompanied by exquisitely detailed sound. Suddenly the scene changes to the ice road along Lake Baikal. Emergency personnel struggle to pull a car out of the water. They scream at another driver who has foolishly ignored warnings of the thin ice. A heavy price is paid for this folly.

Aquarela then shifts its viewpoint to massive ocean waves. The gargantuan tides rock to a ferocious heavy metal soundtrack. The pounding surf and rapid fire kick drum pummels your senses. It’s chaos and cacophony as the screen convulsives. The onslaught ends with a calm respite on the other side of the world. Aquarela transports you to the Angel Falls in Venezuela. The towering mists billow into a faint rainbow. The sway between idyllic and violent continues. From a street ride through Hurricane Irma to the shimmering shadows of light passing through ice flows, Aquarela‘s only character makes its presence constantly felt.

Victor Kossakovsky’s camera work, cinematography, and sound mixing deserve recognition. Aquarela‘s immersive filmmaking techniques succeed in making the audience a part of the action. You feel the glaciers groan, shudder, and then crack into mini tsunamis. My stomach roiled as a desperate deckhand struggles to steer her lurching ship through savage waves. If only the film had spread the wealth evenly.

Aquarela is too disjointed in its approach. The scenes that grip are bunched together. Excitement builds, rewards, and then wanes considerably over significant periods. Kossakovsky loses interest in these quiet lulls. Four audience members walked out of the film halfway through. Aquarela isn’t long, just ninety-minutes; but drags when you’re staring at water flow. Kossakovsky would have benefited from the ten pages and a bang method. Take the spicy bits and sprinkle at weak points during the runtime. A background narrative could have built around the car accidents on Lake Baikal. The ice thawing earlier each year reinforces the climate change theme, and adds needed structure to the film.

Aquarela will be shown at 48 frames per second in high-end movie theaters. The film must be seen in a state of the art theater to truly appreciate the experience. The sound and visuals are stunning, worth the price of admission over narrative issues. Aquarela may be uncomfortable to some audiences, but film is meant to test boundaries and challenge conceptions. Aquarela is in limited release now, and will be rolled out to new markets over several weeks. Aquarela is produced by Participant Media and distributed by Sony Pictures Classics.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Movieweb.

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The Hangman Is Back and Thirsty for More Blood

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At long last, we have a trailer for The Gallows Act II. This is a sequel that has been in the works for quite some time, and has actually been finished, or at least shot, for a couple of years, based on prior reports. Sure, long-delayed releases are rarely a good sign for any movie, let alone a low-budget horror movie. That having been said, for those who enjoyed the first entry, this looks very much like it was cut from the same cloth as The Hangman is back for more blood.

The trailer is very much just a teaser and opts to focus on one scene for most of its 90-second runtime, as opposed to showing us all that much. We see some teenagers gathered around, reading a play all about The Hangman. Things then get a little funky in a not-so-good, horror movie kind of way, before they rapidly escalate to deadly. We then see several shots in quick succession detailing the carnage coming our way. It maintains the found footage aesthetic of its predecessor and feels very much in the same universe as what came before.

Directors Travis Cluff and Chris Lofing return for the sequel, which they also wrote. The cast includes Jono Cota, Jener Dasilva and Brittany Falardeau. Blumhouse head Jason Blum serves as a producer alongside Guymon Casady, Dean Schnider and Benjamin Forkner. It had previously been revealed that the sequel had been tested in 2017. As for why it took so long to secure a release? All we can do is speculate on that one. Reshoots? Clashing over the final product? Either way, it’s finally coming out. In addition to the trailer, a poster for the sequel has been revealed which boasts the tagline, “Evil chooses you.”

The Gallows: Act II centers on Auna Rue, a teenage vlogger and aspiring actress, who logs onto a sinister website. Unfortunately, following that action, Auna soon finds herself trapped in the malevolent world of a cursed stage play, The Gallows. After performing a passage from the play for her tiny internet fan base, she rapidly achieves the stardom she so desperately craves. But it also comes with a twisted challenge from a deadly spirit, The Hangman.

The Gallows was originally released in 2015 and turned out to be quite the financial success. Working from a tiny $2 million budget, the found footage horror flick grossed an impressive $43 million worldwide. As such, a sequel quickly entered development. This, despite the fact that it boasts just a 16 percent approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. But money talks in these situations. The Gallows: Act II is set to hit select theaters on October 25, just ahead of Halloween. The movie will also be available via digital retailers and On Demand that same day. Be sure to check out the trailer from the JoBlo Horror YouTube channel for yourself.

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Christian Bale Is Dying to See Joker, Calls Joaquin Phoenix Brave

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The excitement surrounding Joker is reaching a fever pitch as the film nears release after having recently won the best film award at the Venice Film Festival. The last time a Batman-related movie received this much critical acclaim was The Dark Knight featuring Heath Ledger’s Oscar-winning Joker performance.

Ledger’s co-star in the film, Christian Bale, commented on Joaquin Phoenix reprising the role of the Clown Prince of Crime during promotions for his new film Ford v Ferrari.

“Joaquin is one of the best actors around, you know, and obviously I worked with Heath. You know, it’s a brave thing to follow up that performance and he always makes interesting choices.”

Bale then offered this.

“Dying to see it… I wish them the best with that.”

Encouraging words coming from the Batman who headed the most critically acclaimed films ever about the world of The Dark Knight. While Ledger’s performance in the film was praised as a game-changer, it was subsequently speculated that any other actor who would take on the role would be doomed to looking like a pale imitation of Ledger’s iconic take on the character.

Jared Leto, another Oscar-winning actor, tried hard to avoid the inevitable comparisons when he played the Joker in Suicide Squad. Unfortunately, the changes he brought to the character were deemed too extreme and far removed from the Joker of the comics, and fans almost universally rejected the new Joker.

Related: Joker on Track to Beat Venom Box Office Record Following Venice Debut

When it was announced that Todd Philips was rebooting the character with his gritty Joker origin movie, the question of who will be the new Joker was speculated endlessly. The news that Joaquin Pheonix was finalized for the role was met with surprise on a mostly positive note. Pheonix has lately become known for choosing indie, gritty, low-budget projects far removed from the world of big-budget superhero films. But he is also known for being a fascinating performer with a complete commitment to whatever role he takes on.

Finally, after months of endless rumors surrounding the state of the film, it was screened at the Venice Film Festival and immediately received a rapturous welcome, with Pheonix drawing special praise for his turn as the Joker. Every reviewer who has seen the film seems to agree that the actor has spared no effort in embodying the mind and body of Arthur Fleck, a struggling standup comic who is buffeted endlessly by cruelties that exist in society on all sides, prompting him on his journey into darkness to be reborn as the maniacal Joker.

Now it remains to be seen whether the cumulation of praise and good wishes from the industry will translate into a film that manages to do what The Dark Knight did: make a killing at the box office and cement its status in pop culture as not just a great comic book movie, but one of the greatest action-dramas of all time, with a performance that will be remembered for generations and inspire the next actor who dares to take on the role of the Joker. But no pressure! This news comes from ComicBook.com.

Neeraj Chand

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Will IT Chapter Two Scare Hustlers Away from the Top of the Box Office?

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IT Chapter Two opened last weekend and gave the box office a much-needed shot in the arm with a $91 million take. Pennywise and The Losers Club should be collecting another very fat stack of cash on their second week out, but STX also has the buzzed-about Hustlers set to arrive, which could represent some very major competition. At the same time, Warner Bros. is releasing what is (or at least was) a clear awards season hopeful with The Goldfinch.

Despite the competition, IT Chapter Two is expected to come out on top once again with between $40 and $45 million. The sequel hasn’t been met with the same level of critical praise as its predecessor and it also hasn’t matched the same heights at the box office up to this point. Still, the Andy Muschietti-directed Stephen King adaptation has already crossed the $200 million mark worldwide and, with its take over the weekend, will cement itself as a huge hit nonetheless.

Next up will be Hustlers. Despite coming in second, this is going to be a majorly needed win for STX. The studio has suffered a string of flops, such as Uglydolls and Poms this year alone. The Jennifer Lopez and Constance Wu fronted ensemble crime drama won’t suffer the same fate, though. The movie, which centers on a group of strippers and is based on real-life events, earned high praise coming out of the Toronto International Film Festival (currently boasting a 90 percent on Rotten Tomatoes). That praise will carry it to a debut between $20 and $26 million, based on estimates. That’s a win for director Lorene Scafaria and money in the bank for STX.

Related: IT Chapter Two Was Almost Split Into 2 Movies

On the other side of the coin, we’ve got The Goldfinch. The high-profile adaptation of the novel of the same name was positioned by Warner Bros. as an awards season contender. Directed by John Crowley and boasting a cast led by Ansel Elgort and Nicole Kidman, the movie has been brutalized by critics thus far. As of this writing, it’s rocking a very poor 25 percent approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. It’s expected to earn between $7 and $12 million, but we’d expect it to come in on the low side of those projections. Considering the $40 million production budget, that’s a rough start, to say the very least of it.

Rounding out the top five should be a couple of holdovers in the form of Angel Has Fallen and Good Boys. Both movies have done well for Lionsgate and Universe, respectively, and should nab another $3 to $4 million each. Be sure to check out our full list of weekend box office predictions below and check back with us on Sunday for the weekend estimates. Figures used in this report were provided by Box Office Mojo.

1 IT Chapter Two
2 Hustlers
3 The Goldfinch
4 Angel Has Fallen
5 Good Boys
6 The Lion King
7 Hobbs & Shaw
8 Overcomer
9 Brittany Runs a Marathon
10 Dora and the Lost City of Gold

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Last Blood Infomercial Delivers Rambo’s Greatest Hits, Kills & Massacres

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Ahead of releasing Rambo: Last Blood in theaters, Lionsgate is having some fun marketing the franchise with a new parody infomercial. For a collection dubbed “Rambo’s Greatest Hits,” the faux ad presents all of Rambo’s greatest “kills and massacres for the first time in one amazing collection.” Edited in a fashion similar to infomercials from the ’80s for compilations of soft rock or oldies music, the contrast is hilarious with a cheerful narrating gleefully selling mass murder to the viewers. It’s impossible to watch without laughing, and you can see it for yourself below.

In the clip, many memorable kills from past Rambo movies are put on display, as if each one is a separate Billboard Top 100 hit. The victims are all given names which parody real-life songs, such as “Rocket (Launcher) Man,” “Killing Me Softly (And Quietly),” “Take My Throat Away,” and “Another Kick in the Balls, Pt. 2.” There’s no censorship to be found in the parody ad either, as each of these kills are displayed in all of their bloody glory. It leads to advertising the ticket sales for the next installment of the series, Rambo: Last Blood, showing some new kills from the upcoming sequel while referring to them as “never before seen bonuses.” Clearly, the video is nothing short of genius marketing for this month’s premiere of the new movie.

Related: Rambo Is on the War Path in Latest Last Blood Images

Sylvester Stallone has been playing John Rambo since starring in the 1982 movie First Blood. Initially, Rambo was merely looking for something to eat when he is harassed by the police department of a town he’s traveling through, leading to a massive manhunt for him in the nearby woods. The following sequel established him more as the unstoppable killing machine the character would ultimately become known for, further increasing the pile of bodies laying in his wake in 1988’s Rambo III and 2008’s Rambo. This is also the version of the character most often depicted in the various video games, comic books, and other merchandise spawned from the series.

Directed by Adrian Grunberg, Rambo: Last Blood will bookend the long-running and heavily violent series. This time, Rambo travels to Mexico to save his niece, who has been abducted by a Mexican cartel. Now that things are personal, Rambo seems to be at his most violent mindset yet, as suggested in the trailers for the movie. Also starring alongside Stallone in the movie are Paz Vega, Sergio Peris-Mencheta, Adriana Barraza, and Yvette Monreal. While Stallone has suggested he’s open to playing the character past this movie if it turns out to be a hit at the box office, Grunberg’s aim is for the movie to serve as the final Rambo movie.

Rambo: Last Blood will be upping John Rambo’s kill count even more when it hits theaters this month on Sept. 20. From the first blood to the last blood, the total tally of Rambo’s victims is seemingly impossible to count. Perhaps the final installment will be the character’s bloodiest excursion yet. The “Rambo’s Greatest Hits” video comes to us from Lionsgate Movies on YouTube.

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Apple’s ‘slofie’ is its most pointless ‘innovation’ since Animoji

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That declarative statement of unambiguous triumph was issued by Tim Cook at today’s Apple event   held in the company’s Steve Jobs Theater.

The CEO was heaping praise on his underlings’ role in bringing the various products and services presented onstage to market — a feat which, in his mind, would surely be the crowning achievement of their lives. Which, when one considers the newly unveiled “slofie,” suggests a collection of lives consisting of substantially more valleys than peaks.

For those still blissfully unaware, slofie is a portmanteau of “slow motion” and “selfie” that describes a new feature available with the iPhone 11’s front-facing camera. Specifically, it allows customers to record a slowed down video of themselves.

I mean, just look at how the game done changed.

Revolutionary, isn’t it?

This new feature, which will be used a few times for novelty effect and then quickly forgotten, calls to mind a similarly touted and likewise failed effort by Apple to squeeze an extra inkling of life out of its annual hours-long infomercial: Animoji.

Much like the ability to poorly map your face onto a questionably rendered animal face, the slofie seems hardly worthy of being created let alone held aloft by Cook as a testament to what great minds can do if they only work together.

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And sure, your most annoying friends will most definitely fill your Instagram feed with slofies in the weeks following the iPhone 11’s release. But that says more about them than the feature.

The slofie does offer us one unambiguous benefit, however. Much like with Animoji, use of the slofie by others will allow you to weed out which friends you should or should not keep.

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Rise of Skywalker Death Star Mystery Solved in Older Star Wars Book?

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The Rise of Skywalker trailer provided us with our first hint at the return of the iconic Death Star. Since then, there have been a flood of questions about which Death Star it actually is. J.J. Abrams and Lucasfilm have been doing an excellent job keeping everything under wraps, so we probably won’t really know until the movie hits theaters later this year. Thankfully, an older Star Wars novel from 2017 may provide some tips as to which Death Star is being teased in The Rise of Skywalker trailer.

The Star Wars book Aftermath: Life Debt was written by Chuck Wendig and released in 2017. In the book, there is a chapter about the Alderaanians that were “off world when the planet got destroyed,” during the events of A New Hope. After the Empire fell, they gathered together and “settled in the system on a flotilla of ships.” The chapter in question ends with “Leia gifting them (Alderaanians) the remains of the first Death Star to build a permanent space station in the system out of it.”

Since the first Death Star pieces were given away, it’s safe to assume that it’s all gone. This leads us to the second Death Star, which has been the prevalent theory amongst Star Wars fans. There have been some who believe that the planet shown in The Rise of Skywalker trailer is Yavin IV, but it’s beginning to look like it really is Endor, especially considering how close the Death Star was to the planet when it was taken out. The second Death Star is also where Emperor Palpatine was killed, which brings everything back together.

Related: Official Rise of Skywalker Synopsis Teases New Legends & Final Battle for Freedom

With Emperor Palpatine returning in Rise of Skywalker, the second Death Star seems to make the most sense. The ruins could be where Palpatine is possibly resurrected in the upcoming movie, though we’re not sure how at this time. And if this is indeed Endor that we’re looking at, we will undoubtedly end up seeing some elderly Ewoks. J.J. Abrams isn’t going to just bring us back to Endor for some Death Star ruins. He’ll have to have a couple of the little furry dudes running around too, at least for a moment.

Has Emperor Palpatine been haunting the Death Star ruins on Endor for all of this time? This could very well be the case, though there are a number of ways the Emperor could have returned. As for the Death Star, it will be interesting to see how this all fits into the current trilogy and how J.J. Abrams incorporates it into the storyline. For now, we’ll just have to wait, but there are some pretty huge teases in the Rise of Skywalker promotional footage. Speaking of which, we should have a new trailer out sometime next month, so perhaps there will be more information there. The chapter breakdown from Aftermath: Life Debt was first revealed on Reddit.

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