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Top Gun: Maverick is ridiculous and awesome! 

Joseph Kosinski (Oblivion, Only the Brave) directs this sequel to Top Gun (1986), which was about Pete "Maverick" Mitchell (Tom Cruise), a gifted but unorthodox and insubordinate Navy pilot who nonetheless becomes a hero. Now after more than 30 years as one of the Navy's top pilots, Maverick's called back to Top Gun flight school to teach a new generation of brash, upstart Naval aviators what it takes to be the best. (131 min.)

click to enlarge NEED FOR SPEED Tom Cruise reprises his role as U.S. Navy aviator Pete "Maverick" Mitchell, in Top Gun: Maverick, screening in local theaters. - PHOTO COURTESY OF PARAMOUNT PICTURES
  • Photo Courtesy Of Paramount Pictures
  • NEED FOR SPEED Tom Cruise reprises his role as U.S. Navy aviator Pete "Maverick" Mitchell, in Top Gun: Maverick, screening in local theaters.
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Glen Top Gun: Maverick is absolutely ridiculous and absolutely awesome! This is the sequel that Top Gun deserves. It took 36 years to make it to the big screen, and believe it or not, it was worth the wait. It gives you everything you liked about the original, but bigger and better. Tom Cruise swaggering around like a badass? Check! Crazy good aerial combat scenes? Unbelievably good! Patriotic notions of service and derring-do? Hells yeah! Romance, drama, and sweaty shirtless dudes playing sports? In spades, baby! Of course, the story is deeply contrived, and reality is barely a second thought, but man, this script pushed all the right emotional buttons. It also uses a few scenes and still photos from the original to remind you of the backstory. Despite 30-plus years in the service, Maverick never rose beyond a captain. He'd have been discharged years before, but Adm. Tom "Iceman" Kazansky (Val Kilmer) has protected this former rival. Now Maverick's tasked with training a dozen of the Navy's best pilots for an impossible bombing mission to take out an underground uranium enrichment facility located in treacherous terrain protected by a battery of surface-to-air missiles and "fifth-generation" fighter jets in an unnamed rogue nation. Can Maverick teach these overly competitive hotshots to work as a team?

Anna Oh man, nostalgia is turned up to 11 with this one! It has all the things that make the first Top Gun a total '80s classic but also gives us a new, albeit ridiculous, storyline. Maverick can't get over his guilt or grief over Goose's death, and Goose's son, Rooster (Miles Teller), can't forgive or forget the man who was alongside his father when he died. There's a cocky rivalry for the team leader position between Rooster and Hangman (Glen Powell). The cast is fun too: nerd-alert Bob (Lewis Pullman), love interest Penny (Jennifer Connelly), Maverick-hating Adm. Simpson (Jon Hamm), and a whole cast of other characters that bring this over-the-top story to life. It's that kind of ride-the-edge-of-your-seat fun that big screens are meant for. I'm not going to lie: I have my doubts when it comes to Tom Cruise as an actual person, but the dude is meant for this type of role. He's totally ripped, has an ego for days, and can conjure emotion from me at the drop of a dime. Impressive to say the least! I can't knock this one. Sure, it's big and ridiculous, but I had nothing but fun watching every minute of it.

Glen Teller is terrific as Bradley "Rooster" Bradshaw. Like his film dad, Goose (Anthony Edwards), in the 1986 original, he takes a turn at the piano to play "Great Balls of Fire" in The Hard Deck, the aviators' favorite bar. There's even a flashback to the original scene when Rooster was a little boy watching his dad sing to his mom (Meg Ryan), just don't do the math because that would make Rooster about 41 years old in the sequel. Teller (35) has a Robert Mitchum vibe and looks like Edwards in 1986 original, right down to the cheesy mustache. Great casting! Yes, it's easy to pick the film apart. It exists in a world when the Navy gives Maverick his own airplane hangar to live in, where California motorcycle helmet requirements don't exist, and where the laws of physics are mere recommendations, but damn, what a ride!

Anna Let's not bring math into this one. Why ruin a perfectly good time? I will say, the mom in me was absolutely screaming, "Wear a helmet!" in every motorcycle scene, but I get it. Cruise and Connelly deserve to have great looking hair. The dogfights are amazing, the romance is sweet, and the characters are super endearing too. Also, everyone in this film is incredibly good looking. See it in the theater. Δ

Senior Staff Writer Glen Starkey and freelancer Anna Starkey write Split Screen. Glen compiles streaming listings. Comment at gstarkey@newtimesslo.com.

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