OLD Review

M. Night Shyamalan Returns to the Big Screen with a Psychological Thriller that is Equal Parts Fascinating and Baffling.

SNAKE EYES Review

Paramount Pictures Once Again Attempts to Jump Start a G.I. Joe Series of Films with what is the Most Generic of Summer Popcorn Flicks.

BLACK WIDOW Review

The First Marvel Cinematic Universe Film in Nearly Two Years Delivers a Rousing Spy Thriller that Should Have Happened Years Ago.

SPACE JAM: A NEW LEGACY Review

LeBron James Takes up Michael Jordan's Mantle as he Joins the Looney Tunes for an Out of this World Basketball Game that is More Commercial than Entertaining Endeavor.

F9: THE FAST SAGA Review

Vin Diesel's Dominic Toretto and his "Family" Return as does Director Justin Lin for a Ninth Outing that Feels More Pompous than Pleasant.

Tavern Talk: Video Review - FREE GUY & THE NIGHT HOUSE

While Free Guy took the top spot last weekend (on what may have been the busiest weekend at the box office since pre-pandemic days) no one expected it to repeat on its second weekend especially against another slate of varied opponents and yet - here we are. While the list of new releases over the weekend included more low-key titles than Free Guy such as the Maggie Q/Samuel L. Jackon/Michael Keaton actioner The Protege from director Martin Campbell (Casino Royale), PAW Patrol: The Movie (which also premiered on Paramount+), the Hugh Jackman sci-fi thriller Reminiscence (which also premiered on HBO Max) as well as Seachlight Pictures' The Night House which we ended up reviewing this week largely due to the continued trend of no Thursday night screenings for these day and date HBO Max releases from Warner Bros. (The Suicide Squad being the lone exception). That said, David Bruckner's latest psychological horror trip starring Rebecca Hall seemed to at least be the most interesting of the new weekend crop if not the most successful as The Protege, The Night House, and Reminiscence landed in seventh, eighth, and ninth place to middling returns while the one new release able to compete with Free Guy was the big screen adaptation of Nickelodeon’s kid-friendly animated TV show.  Last week, (the surprisingly exceptional) Free Guy landed in the No. 1 spot with a $28.4 million haul and added another $22.5 million internationally, bringing its first-weekend worldwide total to $50.9 million. In weekend two, the Shawn Levy-directed and Ryan Reynolds starring irreverent comedy continued its winning streak despite COVID cases spiking higher than they’ve been at any point in the past six months. Free Guy saw a surprisingly small drop from its debut weekend, just -33.8% (which was good enough for the best second-weekend hold of the summer thus far), and while part of the reason for its success has to do with the fact it was not released simultaneously on a streaming service (look for it to arrive on digital platforms on 9/28 and on home video formats on 10/12) one hopes some of it has to do solely with the quality of the film and how much audiences are enjoying the theatrical experience of it all. While Free Guy (and the PAW Patrol gang) were likely the only ones happy about box office returns this weekend and while it remains to be seen how studios will react to the pandemic’s new wave of Delta-variant infections the hope can only be that more people continue to get vaccinated and that these cases peak soon so that the world might return to some semblance of normalcy by the time awards season rolls around. As always, be sure to follow the official TAVERN TALK by Initial Reaction YouTube channel as well as on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter where you can find a new review (or reviews) each week!

Tavern Talk: Video Review - SPACE JAM: A NEW LEGACY


While it was expected that Marvel’s Black Widow would be repeating as the number one film at the box office this weekend the spirit of the NBA Finals apparently made a crossover with movie-going audiences as LeBron James' twenty-five year-later sequel to 1996's Michael Jordan-vehicle, Space Jam, turned out to be a much bigger hit than anyone was expecting. The Warner Bros. property (meaning it began simultaneously streaming on HBO Max on Friday) debuted well ahead of early predictions (most in the $20 million range) with a $31.7 million domestic showing easily giving Space Jam: A New Legacy the biggest opening for a kids-targeted film since the COVID-19 pandemic began. Because the film was also available free of charge to HBO Max subscribers and because it was more or less demolished by critics it seemed the momentum had somewhat stalled for this sequel that I - as someone who loved basketball, Michael Jordan, and movies as a child, was pretty anxiously awaiting - all the more sweet. Is the movie very good? No, not really - it's pretty patchy until it gets to the meat and potatoes of what it was explicitly made to do, but at the same time this is a movie whose critical reception was never going to sway or change the minds of the target audience thus not making it that much of a surprise if not still as impressive that James and the Looney Tunes collected a $7,982 per-screen average in 3,965 theaters. In fact, opening weekend audiences scored the film an ‘A-‘ CinemaScore. Back in '96, the original Space Jam premiered to the "toon" of $27.5 million while going on to gross $90.4 million domestically and $230.4 million worldwide. While it's impossible to know where A New Legacy will end up especially with today's theatrical climate and distribution model constantly shifting and a slew of big, new releases upcoming it should be noted that there is a distinct lack of family-friendly material until maybe Jungle Cruise (though it is PG-13), but more likely until August 20th when Paw Patrol: The Movie premieres as Space Jam would seemingly share a bigger portion of it's audience with that film. In second place, Black Widow suffered a pretty severe -67.3% drop from its first weekend, but while the film has accumulated upwards of $132 million in North America and another $100.7 million from international markets, it has yet to open in Chins where Marvel tends to do big business. For a film that cost an estimated $200 million to produce, is also available on Disney Plus for a $30 charge (where it apparently did very well in its first weekend), and has thus far managed to collect a cumulative worldwide gross of $232.7 million (during a pandemic nonetheless), I don't think it's time to start writing the "Is the MCU dead?" pieces just yet. As always, be sure to follow the official TAVERN TALK by Initial Reaction YouTube channel as well as on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter where you can find a new review (or reviews) each week!  

Tavern Talk: Video Review - BLACK WIDOW


It's been longer than I would have liked since posting one of these updates, essentially the month of June I guess, but now seems as fitting a time as any to dig back into box office, new releases, and new release reviews as Marvel Studios finally revealed Scarlett Johansson's Black Widow solo film to the world over the weekend. Originally set for May of 2020 with much debate over whether or not Disney and in particular, Kevin Feige, would allow the film to go straight to streaming a la Mulan and Raya and the Last Dragon it was finally revealed Black Widow would be arriving in theaters this July. While one could still purchase the movie for a premium price and stream it on Disney+ it felt evident that the first Marvel Cinematic Universe film to hit theaters in what ended up being just shy of two years was something of an event and something most might want to take in on the big screen. That said, Black Widow also faced the unfortunate circumstances of arriving just as many states are seeing a major surge in COVID-19 cases thanks to the much-discussed "delta-variant" that is causing some theaters to reduce their auditorium capacity once again or go back to upholding mask mandates despite returning to somewhat normal operating procedures earlier in the summer movie season. As for how Black Widow actually ended up doing at the box office once it finally premiered...well, the news is largely good for all involved but the caveat of the streaming option is certainly a new fold to be considered (is this the future of major movie releases?). This new layer is brought up as Disney did something rather unexpected this weekend when it - for the first time - released that Disney+ brought in $60 million in additional revenue allowing the Mouse House to claim that the film earned $215 million worldwide over the weekend whereas it actually pulled in $80 million domestic and $158 million worldwide in theaters. Sure, Disney still made all the money and there's an argument to be made for Black Widow having had a $120 million opening weekend, but even at $80 million the latest MCU flick sits as the biggest theatrical release since 2019's Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker beating F9's debut of $70 million just a couple weeks back. The one-two punch of F9 and Black Widow certainly serve as strong incentives to return to the theater and the summer releases only continue to roll from this point on with the long-awaited Space Jam sequel next week, a new M. Night Shyamalan thriller and a G.I. Joe/Snake Eyes origin film the week after that, and yet another Disney tentpole in Jungle Cruise capping off July. As always, be sure to follow the official TAVERN TALK by Initial Reaction YouTube channel as well as on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter where you can find a new review (or reviews) each week!

Tavern Talk: Video Review - A QUIET PLACE PART II & CRUELLA


The box office is back, baby! Memorial Day 2021 will seemingly go down as the weekend the masses decided to return to the movies after many long months of theater closings, sporadic releases, and hesitant movie-goers it finally felt like the time had come to take a major step back to normalcy and apparently that step was seeing a movie on a big screen. With the C.D.C lifting mask mandates for those that are fully vaccinated last month and case numbers in the United States continuing to plummet with the fewest number of new infections being identified in nearly a year it would seem the Memorial Day weekend was bound to be seen as something of a celebration. Typically, the last weekend in May comes after a few weeks of summer kick-off releases and fun genre flicks primed for big audiences, but this year Memorial Day weekend served as THE summer kick-off with two major releases opening in theaters alongside one another for the first time in over a year. Also for the first time in over a year, the total box office take surpassed $100 million with A Quiet Place Part II and Cruella leading the way. While Cruella premiered in both theaters and on Disney+ with Premiere Access (which just means you had to pay an extra $30 on top of your monthly subscription price) John Krasinski's sequel to his 2018 hit arrived exclusively in theaters fourteen months after being one of the first movies delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It seems the wait was worth it though, as A Quiet Place Part II scared up $48.4 million in its first three-days with a four-day domestic take totaling $57 million and another $22 million internationally for a worldwide total just shy of $80 million. For the sake of comparison, Krasinski's sequel nearly matched his original film’s $50.2 million opening back in 2018. The follow-up opened with a $12,985 per-screen average in 3,726 theaters easily making it the biggest domestic earner of the pandemic era. As for Cruella, an origin story about the 101 Dalmatians villain starring Emma Stone, it also pulled in solid numbers despite that Premiere Access caveat. Opening with $21.3 million over its first three days while earning $26.5 million over the holiday period, the live-action Disney tale also earned $16 million internationally for a $42.6 million worldwide haul on a rumored budget of anywhere from $100 to $200 million. With the majority of the upcoming major releases falling into either the horror or action categories though, Cruella has the opportunity to leg it out alongside that Disney+ revenue. As always, be sure to follow the official TAVERN TALK by Initial Reaction YouTube channel as well as on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter where you can find a new review (or reviews) each week!

Tavern Talk: Video Review - SPIRAL: FROM THE BOOK OF SAW


In the second week of being back at the theater we saw what was the ninth entry in the Saw franchise though it functions more as a re-boot and/or spin-off as Spiral: From the Book of Saw was produced by and stars comedy legend Chris Rock. Not exactly the personality you expect to re-boot a major gorror franchise, but here we are. The film, which was originally scheduled to be released first in October of 2020 before being moved up to a summer 2020 release, was then of course delayed by the Covid-19 pandemic yet somehow retained its "summer movie" status by helping to usher movie-goers back to the theaters in these early weeks of the new normal. Directed by Saw veteran Darren Lynn Bousman (Saw II, Saw III, and Saw IV) the new film follows a copycat Jigsaw killer and Detective Ezekiel "Zeke" Banks (Rock), working in the shadow of his father (Samuel L. Jackson), along with a new, rookie partner (Max Minghella) as they are tasked with investigating a series of grisly murders that utilize traps eerily reminiscent to that of John Kramer's. Zeke naturally finds himself at the center of the killer's game with plenty of twists and turns along the way. Scripted by Josh Stolberg and Pete Goldfinger who also wrote the previous Saw film, Jigsaw, which was - to put it lightly - pretty terrible made for low expectations going in, but much to my surprise Spiral was a pleasant diversion if nothing else; a movie that felt oddly rewarding given the big screen context in which I saw it. As for the rest of the country, enough horror fans showed up to make Spiral the number one movie at the box office with an $8.7 million debut, easily beating fellow new release, Those Who Wish Me Dead, a survival thriller from writer/director Taylor Sheridan (Yellowstone) starring Angelina Jolie that premiered both in theaters and on HBO Max. The Saw franchise has collectively grossed just shy of $1 billion and while Spiral had the lowest debut of the series thus far I have to imagine that might not have been the case were it not one of the first major releases of post-vaccination life. Most theaters in the U.S. are still operating at a reduced capacity and the film has yet to open internationally so there is certainly room to grow. With higher profile releases beginning over Memorial Day weekend though, and the theatrical window only continuing to shrink it will be interesting to see what type of long-term business Spiral will do given the horror genre doesn't generally have the longest of box office legs. As always, time will tell, but for now be sure to follow the official TAVERN TALK by Initial Reaction YouTube channel as well as on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter where you can find a new review (or reviews) each week!