Old School Blockbusting with 'Top Gun'

My review of Fast Five? Nothing spectacular. That's why I recommend you ring in summer blockbuster season with a throwback instead.

A “blockbuster,” by definition, is a work—usually a film—that is made at great expense and hopes to make a great deal of money. The first true blockbuster film was Jaws, and throughout the past 35 years, the traits of this sort of film have coalesced. There will be danger. There will be romance. There will be prominent Hollywood stars. There will be blood, but much of it will be off-screen.

Please note that There Will Be Blood was, by no definition, a blockbuster, though it was excellent.

Anyway, the established season for these flicks begins with May and more or less ends in mid-August (revolving pretty directly around summer vacation, by no small coincidence). If you’re near a calendar, you’ll note that May 1 is Sunday, meaning that this is the (tentative) beginning of blockbuster season. So, what do we have to bust our blocks this coming weekend?

According to an ad I heard on Pandora, “If you’ve been waiting for a reason to come to the movies, we’ve got FIVE.” This was followed by an unhealthy amount of tire screeching and bravado-soaked male voices: it was a spot for Fast Five, the latest effort in the still-enduring Fast and the Furious franchise. Five opens everywhere (literally everywhere, it’s probably playing in your basement) on Friday. Now, I’ll reserve my specific judgment for after I will have seen the film, but generally speaking: is this really what we’re down to with our tent-pole releases? Can’t we get a better early-May blockbuster than the fifth entry in a series about the exploits of bald men driving cars with lots of speed?

Thankfully, someone in the programming department at AMC Theatres recognized this dilemma. Furthermore, this kind soul knew two things: planes are better than cars, and the 1980’s were better than now. So you’ve got two chances this weekend to catch rare screenings of the 1986 classic Top Gun.

It’s the 25th anniversary of the film that sent all of us into the danger zone (and a great many into the recruitment office.) To celebrate, AMC is rolling out a digitally re-mastered print and throwing in a free poster to sweeten the deal.

As a relic of big, loud summer movies past, it remains an excellent example of the form. Whereas most current blockbusters either feature warmed-over stars of the past or force-fed young actors with little-to-no appeal (I’m looking at you, Shia LaBeouf), Top Gun featured a rising star who actually became a major star in a classically Hollywood performance. (Ignore any and all opinions you may have developed of Mr. Cruise in the intervening years, please.)

It’s also a great chance to show the kids what movies looked like when they were shooting the stunts for real. It’s hard to imagine the type of aerial daring exhibited in Top Gun in today’s movies when it can just be faked after the fact. Film is inherently illusion, but 25 years ago, the illusion was a lot riskier than it is today.

Most importantly, Top Gun is a ton of fun, and instantly the best bet going in local theaters this weekend; get there early and check out the surprisingly delicious sandwiches at the Loews Club Restaurant upstairs (the Buffalo Chicken is an over-filling delight.)

And if you see it Saturday, why not throw in a screening of Fast Five afterward? It’s dumb, but hey: The Rock is in this one!

Fast Five in wide release this weekend. Top Gun at AMC/Loews Waterfront 22, 300 Waterfront Drive W, Homestead. Sat., 12:30 p.m. and Mon., 7 p.m. Adults $7.50, children $5.00. Info: 412-462-6550, amctheatres.com/waterfront.

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