VENOM: LET THERE BE CARNAGE Review

Andy Serkis Takes Over Directing Duties in this Sequel to the Surprise 2018 Smash that Doubles Down on all the Worst Parts of its Predecessor.

DEAR EVAN HANSEN Review

Stephen Chbosky, Ben Platt, and Pasek and Paul aren't enough to make this Adaptation of the Hit Broadway Musical Greater than the Sum of its Parts.

SHANG-CHI AND THE LEGEND OF THE TEN RINGS Review

The Introduction of the Latest Hero to the Marvel Cinematic Universe is a Rousing and Aesthetically Beautiful Underdog Story Until it Isn't.

FREE GUY Review

Director Shawn Levy and Star Ryan Reynolds Transform what might have been Derivative Fluff into an Endearing and Genuinely Fun Comedy.

CANDYMAN Review

Producer Jordan Peele and Director Nia DaCosta Update the 90s Horror Classic with all the Subtlety of a Hook Hand.

Tavern Talk: Video Review - NO TIME TO DIE


With four year in between Quantum of Solace and Skyfall and now six years between Spectre and No Time to Die there seems no denying that the time has come for Daniel Craig to lay his Bond to rest. That isn't to say the movies have become tired or arduous to get through, but more that Craig's time as the suave British agent has been through a lot and the guy - if not the character - needs a break. Originally set to open in April of 2020, barely a month after the world seemingly shut down due to the COVID pandemic, Craig's official final chapter in the long-running 007 franchise finally arrived on the big screen last weekend. And? You might ask. Well, the film continued to do great business overseas, where it opened a week earlier than in the States - per usual - but one might be overselling it if they were to say MGM/Universal or the Broccoli/Wilson brain trust who own the rights to Ian Fleming's novels and the James Bond character were "thrilled" with the domestic opening. With a $56 million opening weekend ($62 million counting a rather strong Monday showing over Columbus/Indig. Peoples' Day) the ambitious (and lengthy) blockbuster both fell short of expectations while still managing to be one of the biggest openings of 2021. All that to say that after two weeks, the film has pulled in $259 million overseas making its current worldwide box-office a "fine" $326.4 million.  Of course, the aforementioned COVID-19 pandemic still bears part of the blame for this underwhelming opening even as Delta variant surges begin to plateau in many areas throughout the country given a large number of the franchise’s longtime fans are older and more cautious about returning to theaters. In fact, MGM internal polling is said to have shown that No Time to Die marked the first trip back to theaters for 25% of its audience since the pandemic began. Craig's previous two installments opened big with Spectre pulling in $70.4 million in 2015 while Skyfall is the series’ biggest opener ever with $88.4 million in 2012. Granted, neither of those films were catching a film industry on the rebound from nearly eighteen months of theater closures and release date shuffles, but it seems No Time to Die's debut will still be considered disappointing at least for the time being. With some time and perspective things could shake out in favor of Craig's swan song (pun intended), but with a $250 million price tag and a massive marketing campaign, the movie will need to make up for that lengthy running time and therefore limited number of showings with repeat viewers and a big opening in China when it debuts there on October 29th. None of this is completely out of the realm of possibility as China is known for being one of the bigger markets for Bond and the film did earn an 84% "fresh" rating from critics and an 88% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes.  As always, we'll see! 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!

Tavern Talk: Video Review - VENOM: LET THERE BE CARNAGE


It seems it will be as tough for me to keep this post coming on a regular basis as it has been for the box office to establish some type normalcy, but hopefully this first week in October means promising signs for the both of us. After Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings opened with a bang at the beginning of September it seemed as if everyone else knew to clear out for the latest character's introduction into the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe as the film eared north of $75 million in its opening weekend and has gone on to sit at $389 million worldwide after a month in release. Last week saw the first real competition for the MCU title in the adaptation of the hit Broadway musical Dear Evan Hansen, but with a quaint $7 million debut and adding less than $2.5 million this weekend, equaling more than a 65% drop, the PG-13-rated musical starring Ben Platt has earned only $11.8 million on a $25 million budget. The film has yet to open overseas, but it's hard to imagine this playing out in any fashion other than a disappointing one. What gives October reason to look on the bright side though, is the fact Venom: Let There Be Carnage kicked off the month by shattering all previous pandemic-era records with a $90.1 million domestic debut. One might even be so bold as to say that the debut of the Venom sequel combined with the October slate ahead makes a seriously strong case the Hollywood tentpole is finally back. And while Venom is not technically part of the MCU the follow-up to the 2018 original that also did surprisingly robust business and outperformed that predecessor’s $80.2 million debut definitely put up some MCU-sized stats. The original film ended up grossing $213.5 domestically and $856.1 million worldwide which was surprising to even the most seasoned of box office prognosticators, but even with that information Venom 2’s record-setting $90.1 million debut in a post-pandemic world blew past expectations as it did the unusual these days by also bypassing streaming and VOD services. To break it down further, Venom 2 had a $21,325 per-screen average in its opening weekend which is pretty astonishing as well as adding $13.8 million internationally bringing its global box-office total to $103.9 million after a single weekend. In other new release news, the United Artists’ animated sequel The Addams Family 2 also bested expectations, debuting to $18 million while also being available on premium VOD for $19.99. The much-anticipated Sopranos prequel, The Many Saints of Newark, opened in fourth place as Warner Bros.’ Tony Soprano origin story starring the son of the show’s late star James Gandolfini, accrued only $5 million domestically, but the fact it also premiered simultaneously on HBO Max undoubtedly took some of the business away from the big screen. 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 - 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!