Review Roundup

Look Up! Tom Cruise, ‘Downton Abbey’ Lead the Slate of May Movies

Published on May 18, 2022

Remember June 2017? You could still go to a concert and shriek your guts out without fear of catching an airborne virus. A Chai latte at Starbucks cost less than $5. And Tom Cruise announced that he was determined to film a sequel to his 1986 star-making classic Top Gun. I had just created MaraMovies — both the site and my LLC, woot — and thought it would be provocative to write an open letter to the movie star about why this was a horrific mistake. Just for marquee value, my exact headline was “Why Tom Cruise Will Crash and Burn if He Makes a Top Gun sequel.” And to be sure, I wasn’t just writing it for SEO purposes. I truly believed it was mistake, as it seemed like an unnecessary even by unnecessary sequel standards. In a shocking development, Cruise did not take my advice. And five years later, I popped into a Times Square movie theater to watch Top Gun: Maverick. And guess what? I loved it. It’s not even a Great Movie and I loved it. It just goes to show you that even a cynical film critic with a heart of stone can be pleasantly surprised — and that there’s nothing more exhilarating than a grade-A popcorn flick. So even though the sun is out, go into the dark as soon as you can. It’s summer movie season, people! Here’s the May lineup.



Top Gun: Maverick

3.5 stars (out of 4)

Quick test: What does the retro pop song “Danger Zone” mean to you? If the answer has anything to do with Top Gun, then put on your best bomber jacket and proceed to the closest theater ASAP. For this long-awaited sequel is a terrific piece of summer entertainment specially designed for fans of the 1986 classic, right down to its familiar opening sequence. And an ever-committed Tom Cruise, to his credit, still looks and feels comfortable in the pilot’s seat at age 58. His hot shot Pete “Maverick” Mitchell is now a captain in the elite Top Gun school and teaching a new generation of fliers — including “Rooster” (Miles Teller), a trainee who’s also the embittered son of fallen former wingman “Goose.” He also strikes up a romance with a former love (Jennifer Connellly, who’s blessedly age appropriate to play Cruise’s love interest). It doesn’t take a master aviator to determine how this story is going to land. But the film’s predictability and repeated nods to the original don’t lessen any of the fun. Hello, shirtless beach football! Plus, Maverick’s quiet moments with onetime rival “Iceman” (Val Kilmer) is, in a way, more satisfying than his dazzling acrobatics in the sky. It’s all enough to take your breath away. (In theaters May 27) 


Downton Abbey: A New Era

2.5 stars (out of 4)

Kindly disregard that subtitle. Much of the original cast from the 2010-15 PBS series and subsequent film, including Michelle Dockery, Elizabeth McGovern and Dame Maggie Smith, has indeed returned for more saucy drama — and though everyone has a moment to shine, the Downton era feels a bit quaint thanks to a parade of uninspiring storylines. We’re in 1928, as the upper-crust Crawley family heads to the French Riviera because the Dowager Countess (Smith) has suddenly inherited a villa from a long-ago suitor. (“Do I look as if I’d turn down a villa in the South of France?” she quips). Back at Downton Abbey, a film crew (led by newcomer Hugh Dancy) takes over the house to shoot a new motion picture — much to the disgust of Lord Grantham (Hugh Bonneville). And just for good measure (and to fluff out those aimless plots), there’s a wedding, birth and funeral, too. For longtime rabid fans, seeing those sweeping views of the estate and hearing the Countess’ endless supply of sharp-tongued retorts will be as comforting as a spot of English tea. For everyone else? Alas, it’s time to move forward. (In theaters May 20)


Senior Year

2.5 stars (out of 4)

There’s a reason why Rebel Wilson stands atop the comedy pyramid. Fearless, frank and funny, the Aussie can do it all — even enliven a so-so movie. Meet Stephanie, a popular-albeit-insecure high-school senior who literally falls into a coma in the early 00s. Twenty years later, she wakes up and promptly goes back to school to reclaim her Queen Bee status. (She rationalizes this goal by claiming she’s still mentally a teen. Sorry, don’t buy it.) The humor stems from a slew of generational head-scratchers; Stephanie is befuddled by technology and Lady Gaga. But the jokes are mainly toothless and easy: Confusion about why the PC-friendly cheer squad now roots “for humanity” is as hot-button as it gets. And the requisite set pieces (Prom! Graduation!) add little to the teen-genre cannon. Still, give Wilson extra-credit for single-handedly wringing out all the laughs and gamely reenacting a classic Britney Spears video. It’s “Crazy” enough to work. (Now streaming on Netflix)