DUNE Review

Director Denis Villenueve and an Expansive Cast Translate Frank Herbert's 1965 Sci-Fi Masterpiece into a Digestible First Half of a Story That Immerses if not Invests.


David Gordon Green Follows-Up his 2018 Re-Boot of the Iconic Horror Franchise with a Middle Chapter that is Messy, Unfocused, and Brutal but not Very Scary.


Daniel Craig's James Bond Swan Song is Everything a Fan of the Series Could Want from A Spy Thriller and Often Times...More.


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.


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

AIR Review

A film of conversations, processes, and considerations. Ben Affleck directs with ease allowing the inherent intrigue of the story to pull its weight while everyone else lathers on the charm. Plenty to dig into thematically if you so choose especially the icky territory of giving a certain level of underdog merit to what was already a million dollar corporation in 1984, but the thing is...that's not really what this movie is about. 

Affleck knows the terrain he's venturing into when he takes on a movie about said massive corporation finding a way to market an inessential product (shoes are essential, sure, but $200 shoes are not) to underpriveleged and marginalized communities. He knows this isn't a story of the American dream the way he undoubtedly knew it would be marketed as, but rather how companies and brands had become such obscure ideas behind the recognizable spokespeople they put in their commercials that it took a company doing the inverse - making said spokesperson the face of their brand (and changing the business around it as they did so) - to make middle class Americans comfortable with the idea of throwing down that kind of dough on sneakers. It's also a movie that revels in the aforementioned processes - showing people who are good at what they do doing it well - which makes for some of the films best scenes. Like the song that serves as Affleck's thesis here, we see the desperation and the details in the small moments and hear the energy - the hope, if one might be so kind - in the big, sweeping speeches. 

My favorite part of AIR though is that it - at the very least - encourages ideas of boldness, of taking the big bet, of striking out on your own, even if in this particular story that only means signing a well-compensated endorsement deal. Alex Convery's screenplay is intent on emphasizing time and time again that in 1984 Nike was the least popular shoe in professional basketball and that it's only thanks to the fortuitous eye of Sonny Vaccaro (Matt Damon) who, with a little help from Arthur Ashe, came up with the idea to hang Nike's entire basketball line on the promise of Michael Jordan. Simple facts: Nike wasn't cool, but they had the most soul (sole?) and Jordan, with strong guidance from his mother Deloris (a wonderful Viola Davis), no doubt liked the idea of being a pioneer; a simultaneous rule-breaker and trendsetter. It also doesn't hurt that AIR is a sturdy and entertaining old school drama that hits all the right spots when simply viewed as a triumphant story even if that story is more about making a living than how to live.

Top 10 of 2022

This year was a bit of a contradiction in movie watching and movie criticism for me. After being able to get back into the swing of things with my YouTube channel, TAVERN TALK, in 2021 this year marked the first full calendar year in which I produced a weekly video review of the biggest release of the week on my own. I’m proud of what that channel has become and the people that I have been able to meet reviewing movies in this fashion even if the growth hasn’t been what I’d like it to be. I wish I could dedicate countless hours to the channel and produce multiple videos a day, but that's just not in the cards at this point in life and the amount of work it takes to produce these reviews at the level of quality I like and the consistency I’ve done has come to also hinder my viewing habits - cutting into time I could have spent watching more films. This end of year list would typically be a video I publish on the channel (& may still be, but will also appear here for the sake of timing), but while the video format of reviewing movies has been an experience I’ve largely enjoyed it’s not one I can necessarily keep up with at any kind of competitive rate moving forward and this will be cutting back on those in the new year. I want to be able to see more films in general (I only saw 129 new releases in 2022 where in year's past I typically see over 200) as well as work on projects of my own within the world of film without having to pour all of my time and energy into videos about other people’s movies. All of that to say, I obviously didn’t see everything I wanted to in 2022 and hope to catch-up with many at the top of my watchlist soon, but as it is the final day of the year my ten favorite films of this year are as follows…


Dildos, like farts, are always funny and there are plenty of both in writer/director/editor Jordan Mears debut feature(ish) film, New West. Well, to be honest, I don’t know that I can confidently say I remember any particular instances of flatuation but trust me - there are plenty of gags involving dicks, dildos, and...rubber horse masks? Different function for the word "rubber" than you might have expected given the previous few sentences, huh? Well, that's what makes Mears and company's trip down South all the more enjoyable: it's mostly unpredictable (and often pretty funny to boot). Whether in sight, sound, or purely by association the gags built around these "lewd" objects shaped like erect penises used for sexual stimulation along with a particularly sturdy rubber horse mask, New West is a frothy and filthy little excursion that takes sincere pleasure in delivering what so few trips to the cinema tend to offer these days in that it is a pure, unadulterated broad comedy. Speaking of unexpected word functions regarding this movie - don't expect to see "pure" in the same sentence as New West anywhere else. 

With the shift to streaming and the expansion of platforms for which content is being produced comedy is the genre that has suffered the most given different flavors of the genre have each found their niche in different silos of the culture, meeting the needs of multiple segments of the population, but no longer bringing us together as they once did so casually (or frequently). Now, I'm not saying New West is here to right the ship of the broad comedy or even that, should it see the light of day beyond the festival circuit, it will be for everybody but what I am saying is that it demonstrates there is a hunger for the communal comedy experience once again after the onslaught of negative world events and abundance of bad news that has hammered citizens of the planet from every direction for what feels like the better part of a decade now. With New West, Mears along with co-writer, composer, and actor Coty Greenwood have crafted what is clearly something they knew would make themselves laugh, something that they had a grand time concocting, and something that - while sometimes vile - clearly has good intentions and aspirations given those don't seem to stretch for anything more than bringing a group of friends and/or strangers together to make them laugh.

Tavern Talk: Video Reviews - ETERNALS & SPENCER

While the reception among critics and audiences has admittedly been less enthusiastic than what typically surrounds a new Marvel property, that seemingly hasn't stopped people from at least being interested in what and who the Eternals is and are. While I haven't written a review for the film I will say that despite it not being the home run introduction to a brand new layer of the Marvel Cinematic Universe like we all hoped it might be, there is still much to like and appreciate about the film if, for nothing else, being willing to make some big swings it knew might not pay off. As far as financial reception is concerned though, early projections put the domestic debut of the film somewhere between $75-$80 million. Of course, the star-studded epic about a race of immortal beings fell slightly short of those early predictions, but not as drastically as the headlines would have one believe. Directed by Chloe Zhao, whose Nomadland is the most recent Best Picture winner with Zhao also taking home the Best Director statue, Eternals debuted with $71 million making it the fourth-best domestic debut of the pandemic era, edged out - somewhat ironically - by only Venom: Let There Be Carnage ($90 million), Black Widow ($80.4 million), and Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings ($75.4 million) all of which are Marvel or Marvel-adjacent properties. The film also began its box office run with a $161.7 million global haul which was the second-biggest worldwide debut of 2021 (behind only F9: The Fast Saga’s $163 million). Spencer was also initially released on November 5th, but only in 996 theaters and to the tune of $2.2 million. The R-rated arthouse drama from Neon starring Kristen Stewart as Princess Diana is one of the most anticipated contenders this awards season as many expect Stewart to be nominated for if not win in the Best Actress category. In its second weekend, Eternals added $27.5 million, holding off a strong debut from the live-action adaptation of Clifford the Big Red Dog which made $16.4 million despite premiering simultaneously on Paramount+. This was a -61.4% drop for the latest MCU endeavor meaning it falls between the second-weekend totals of the most recent Marvel releases in Shang-Chi (-52%) and Black Widow (-67%). After two weeks, the ensemble super hero flick sits at $118.8 million domestically while having pulled in $162.6 million internationally, bringing its current worldwide haul to $281.4 million on a reported $200 million budget. Spencer earned an additional $1.531 million in its second weekend as it expanded to 269 more screens for a total theater count of 1,265. This was a drop of only 27% from its debut weekend and, while impressive, one imagines this might only gain more traction (whether that be on VOD or in theaters) the deeper we get into awards season. Spencer has also not been released internationally 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!

Official Trailer for SPIDER-MAN: NO WAY HOME

In what is possibly the most anticipated trailer of all time (sorry, Endgame), Sony and Marvel Studios finally released what the whole world was seemingly waiting on...we are going "into the spider-verse". Of course, anyone who has paid any attention to the MCU post-Infinity Saga fully expected this to be the case - especially given Sony's involvement - but whatever doubt hanging over the project that Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield might show-up seems to only be erased by the final seconds of this trailer. There is a lot to talk about here besides those speculations though. First, this is the third in what we can only assume is a trilogy of Holland-centered Spider-Man films which feels weird to say given it feels like the young actor is just getting started with the character, but it would seem his future in the franchise will solely be based on what Sony chooses to do with him and that would seem to be more team-up/crossover movies than continued stand-alone adventures. In essence, Holland's run will be more episodic from this point forward which, as someone who grew-up watching serialized cartoons of these heroes and always wished something akin to a live-action version of that might be created, I'm not mad about. Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige has of course done just this with his cinematic universe, but now we're truly venturing from character crossovers to studio crossover and Sony has always been intent on milking its Spider-Man property for all its worth and have somehow managed to make a hit out of solo Venom movies making this idea of Holland continuing to play Peter Parker and his alter ego in a series of movies a viable one. Who knows how everything will shake out or even what implications No Way Home will have on both the Sony-verse as well as the MCU (don't forget Doctor Strange is in this movie too!), but one thing is abundantly clear: there is more of a desire for this character and all the cinematic baggage he brings with him than ever and Sony isn't going to miss out on their third opportunity with him; let's just hope they've learned from their mistakes from the first two rounds and don't overly mandate what these movies need to be, don't attempt to overstuff each installment with too many characters just to crowd please, and actually allow the creative teams they hire to see the visions they pitched and were hired for through to the end. Much of this is already a concern with No Way Home, but while this may be the end of a trilogy it is very clearly the start of something new and hopefully...grand. Spider-Man: No Way Home will feature Holland's web slinger reeling from the reveal of his identity at the end of Far From Home while looking to Benedict Cumberbatch's Doctor Strange for help. Jacob Batalon's Ned and Zendaya's MJ return along with confirmed supporting cast members Marisa Tomei, Angourie Rice, Tony Revolori, Jon Favreau, Hannibal Buress, and will open exclusively in theaters on December 17th. 

Tavern Talk: Video Review - DUNE

The big question going into last weekend was not whether Dune deserved for people to show up to it or not, but more...would they? It had widely become known that Warner Bros. attempt to adapt Frank Herbert's 1965 sci-fi epic would be a tale of two halves from director Denis Villenueve (Prisoners, Sicario, Arrival) as past attempts at adapting the material, namely David Lynch's 1984 film, had all fallen on troubled times and disappointing outcomes. Would the bold move to only make the first half of the book into a movie and then wait and see if there was enough reason to make a second pay off or would this simply turn out to be another chapter in the long, hard road of bringing Herbert's worlds to life? Well, as of this week it looks like the gamble may have paid off as WB and Legendary officially greenlit Dune Part 2 as the film pulled in a not great, but probably better than expected $40.1 million domestic debut. This was the latest in WB's string of major releases this year that also premiered on HBO Max on the same day, but it seemed at least $40 million worth of folks had been listening to Villenueve for the past ten or so months as the filmmaker has been championing seeing his film in the most immersive environment possible since WB and HBO announced their collaboration last December. The catch with both the day-and-date streaming choice and how it might have impacted the ultimate decision as to whether or not a sequel could be justified is the fact Villenueve's movie cost a hefty $165 million. Villenueve is no stranger to large-scale sci-fi films that are well-reviewed and look gorgeous, but are questionable financial endeavors as his Blade Runner 2049 carried a $150 million price tag but made just less than $260 million worldwide (and that's not counting what was no doubt a costly marketing campaign). The good news is that Dune has already made $182 million internationally for a cumulative worldwide box office that currently stands at $223 million and will seemingly only continue to make strong returns overseas as HBO Max is not available in all territories. Questions over that simultaneous debut on a streaming platform and how that might cut into theatrical ticket sales were reignited again with the release of Dune, but have seemingly calmed with the announcement of Part 2 moving forward. Despite a lengthy runtime (meaning less showings, especially in the age of COVID where theater hours are limited on weekdays) the film managed to land a $9,721 per-screen average in 4,125 theaters in its debut weekend. It should also be noted that Dune’s release marked WB's best three-day tally since it began its day-and-date roll-out strategy with Godzilla vs. Kong back in April. Furthermore,  IMAX accounted for $9 million of the film’s domestic gross. 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 - HALLOWEEN KILLS

With the likes of Venom and James Bond taking back the limelight that has evaded the movie industry for the better part of two years and with it now being mid-October it was time Michael Myers was afforded his time to shine. Director David Gordon Green's Halloween Kills, the twelfth film in the franchise overall and the direct sequel to Green's 2018 reboot AKA "HallowGreen", straight-up murdered the rest of the competition in its first weekend with a $50.4 million debut. This strong showing was especially impressive considering the sequel also premiered on Peacock (the NBC streaming service) the same day. The latest chapter in the horror franchise, again featureing THE Scream Queen in Jamie Lee Curtis, also had a notable showing this past weekend as it scored the highest-grossing opening weekend for a day-and-date premiere (meaning a simultaneous release in theaters and on streaming), as it beat out Godzilla vs. Kong’s $31.6 million opening back in March. Of course, not all new releases welcomed good news as the first of two major Ridley Scott releases this fall, The Last Duel, was essentially dead on arrival bringing in only $4.8 million on a reported $100 million budget. Maybe this shouldn't be surprising given it is a two and a half hour historical drama, but it was also touted as and is the first time Matt Damon and Ben Affleck have collaborated on a writing project since Good Will Hunting and one might think after venturing out for Bond last weekend that older moviegoers might be more inclined to begin giving this year's Oscar bait a chance. Where films like The Last Duel were once the highest form of and most respected Hollywood production they have now been usurped by the prestige TV drama and/or miniseries with movie theaters being dominated by the sequels and shared universes. Enter Halloween Kills which, when broken down, had a $13,589 per-screen average resulting in that $50.4 million haul that, while not reaching the $76.2 million domestic debut of its predecessor, is still considered a big hit given the caveats of its day and date premiere as well as the film's rather warm critical reception. The harsher reception was not only true with critics though as the film received a surprisingly low "B-" CinemaScore grade from opening weekend audiences as well. Internationally, the film earned $5.5 million, bringing its one-week worldwide total to $55.9. While unlikely to match 2018’s $255 million global haul Halloween Kills will still make more than enough profit for Jason Blum and Universal to feel good about next year's trilogy-capper in Halloween Ends. 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 - 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!