Top Gun: Maverick (in theaters now! THU 05.26.22). This high-octane and nostalgic ride should have been called ‘Top Gun: Mission Impossible’ rather than its true title. Co-writer Christopher McQuarrie (The Usual Suspects) and Director Joseph Kosinski (Tron: Legacy) bring home a winning combination of the original Top Gun film, mated with a gut wrenching and visually stunningly impossible mission for the intrepid pilots in this sequel. TGM picks up some 25 years or so after the first film, and before you ask – No. You don’t need to have seen the original to enjoy the hell out of this one. Tom Cruise (Taps) returns as Pete Mitchell, and sadly, he’s still a Navy Captain (even though he’s old enough and experienced enough to be an Admiral). Resigned to special interest Navy flying projects, he’s reluctantly recruited back to Top Gun school to train the newest and toughest graduates for a specific mission. A tough mission…an insane and miraculous one that will have you on the edge of that IMAX seat (or whatever format you prefer). The key to this one being so good is really the writing out of onscreen characters. Taking the place of Navy pilot Iceman from the original film, is a square-jawed, ridiculously handsome asshole you love to hate in pilot callsign ‘Hangman’ portrayed cleanly, sharply and with much disdain by actor Glen Powell (Hidden Figures). You all but forget Cruise’s original love interest from the first film, and seamlessly fall in love with his love interest Penny Benjamin (Jennifer Connelly-The Rocketeer). She’s gorgeous, tough, a loving mom, a townie, and one hell of a sailor – you just feel the connections between the two. But the genius in the writing here is how the original character Iceman from the first film was handled. We all know, from real life, that actor Val Kilmer (The Saint) returned for the role – we also know that in real-life he’s suffering from a form of throat cancer that affects his ability to speak. And his size and looks have changed dramatically since the original film. The filming crew of TGM makes it work and exacts it on-screen into a beautiful culmination that serves the story. Films like this have a built-in audience, heck it’s been 35 years since the original, so this is going to be a hit – but I’ll go out on a limb with a fearless Memorial box office prediction of $230M. I give it an A+ and even now I’m itching to watch the dog-fighting scenes again.