Toy Story 4 Review

Disney and Pixar Upend Expectations with this Fourth Sequel that Comes to Justify Itself in Moving and Necessary Ways.

Child's Play Review

This Re-Boot/Re-Make of the Original, 1988 Killer Doll Slasher Flick is Made Fun by a Game Cast and some Creatively Endearing Choices.

Aladdin Review

Will Smith and a Charismatic Ensemble Bring Director Guy Ritchie's Live-Action Re-Make of the Classic Animated Tale to Life Just Enough to Justify its Existence.

MIB: International Review

Director F. Gary Gray and a Charismatic Cast Featuring Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson aren't Enough to Lift this Reboot to the Height of its Predecessors.

The Secret Life of Pets 2 Review

This Sequel to the High-Concept, but Only Mildly Entertaining 2016 Film Tries for More yet Comes up Feeling Emptier than Before.

Tavern Talk: Video Review - SCARY STORIES TO TELL IN THE DARK

With five new wide releases opening going into the weekend the only foregone conclusion was that last week's number one, Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw, would remain at the top spot. The fight for second would largely be between Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark and Dora and the Lost City of Gold while the likes of The Art of Racing in the Rain, The Kitchen and Brian Banks could seemingly do anything or nothing. Fortunately for Tavern Talk, the new release we chose to review this week did indeed prove to be the biggest as CBS Films, eOne and Lionsgate's Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark adaptation raked in almost $21 million in its first weekend on a budget of $25 million. While the film did receive a rather discouraging "C" CinemaScore from opening day audiences (we liked it a little more than that), the PG-13 film also played to crowds where 54% of the overall audience was older than twenty-five. While the film had the unique challenge of appealing to the generations that grew up with it while still maintaining the spirit of the source material and therefore appealing to current tweens and teens rather than only those who loved it as children who are now adults it seemed to use this appeal and potential appeal largely to its advantage. It's worth noting the Guillermo del Toro-produced and André Øvredal-directed feature will also be the last horror flick to open for the next month or so before the behemoth that will be It: Chapter Two arrives. 2015's Goosebumps ended its run with $58 million from a $23 million opening and given Scary Stories has been marketed as being a "first horror movie" for kids who are old enough as well as the room to grow the idea of this thing reaching $60 million or so isn't completely out of the question. Dora the Explorer's live-action adaptation debuted to $17 million which was enough for a third place finish while receiving an "A" CinemaScore, The Art of Racing in the Rain finished just outside the top five and on the lower end of studio expectations with an estimated $8.1 million while Warner Bros. and New Line's The Kitchen fell below even the lowest of expectations with a $5.5 million debut. Lastly, Bleecker Street's release of Brian Banks finished just outside the top ten with $2.1 million though I can attest to this one being worth your time as even if the film itself is made in a rather generic fashion the story it's telling is truly extraordinary. 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! 

First Trailer for Greta Gerwig’s LITTLE WOMEN

Sony Pictures has released the first look at writer/director Greta Gerwig’s follow-up to her Oscar-nominated debut, Lady Bird. For her second feature, Gerwig chose to adapt Louisa May Alcott’s classic 1868 novel, Little Women, that follows four sisters who come of age in America in the aftermath of the Civil War. While I have fond memories of the 1994 Gillian Armstrong-directed adaptation starring Susan Sarandon, Winona Ryder, Kirsten Dunst, Claire Danes and Christian Bale (which I remember considering funny even at that time as period pieces weren't exactly my thing as an eight to nine year-old boy) as it was one of those VHS tapes on repeat at my Nanny's (my mom's mom) house that I never thought twice about the origins of. Originally published in two volumes in 1868 and 1869, the book is known for being a mostly autobiographical novel in which Alcott chronicled the March sisters including Meg (Emma Watson), Jo (Saoirse Ronan), Amy (Florence Pugh of Midsommar) and Beth (Eliza Scanlen of Sharp Objects) as they grow up, find love and find their place in the world. Timothee Chalamet takes on the role of Theodore Laurence, the grandson of the March's neighbor and the young man who is ultimately after the heart of the strong and willful Jo. All of that said, I don't remember much of the specifics or details of said story and therefore am unsure of what exactly attracted Gerwig to this project as her follow-up outside of the fact it's a classic novel and something of a familiar brand that might help it garner more traction outside of this simply being Gerwig's second film as a director. Given I remember that previous version being more than appealing though, I'm anxious to see what Gerwig has done with the source material to make it her own. If there's anything that stands out about the trailer it is how impeccable the period detail seems to be while simultaneously feeling as fresh as anything Gerwig might have done otherwise. Though set in the 19th century the conflicts and interactions all feel very much alive and the actors just as present in these emotions as they would be were they in a high school setting. Rather than feeling like the stuffy, unrelatable period piece it very well could have Gerwig seems to have crafted something much more accessible. The themes and ideas being relayed are unsurprising yet still important, but I'm really loving the way Gerwig and her cinematographer, Yorick Le Saux, seem to have balanced the look of the film with these bright pops of vibrant color and the rich textures of the dark shadows as if to fully embrace the little women of the title coming into their own and carving out their own respective places in society. Little Women also stars Meryl Streep, Laura Dern, Bob Odenkirk, Chris Cooper and opens on Christmas Day.

On DVD & Blu-Ray: August 13, 2019

Tavern Talk: Video Review - FAST & FURIOUS PRESENTS: HOBBS & SHAW

While the big story with Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw over the weekend was that it debuted on the lower end of what the franchise typically pulls in a $180 million worldwide opening is nothing to scoff at. Debuting in 4,253 theaters (the second widest release in the Fast & Furious franchise) the action epic budgeted at $200 million pulled in $60 million, which was in line with Universal's pre-weekend expectations, but I will admit to being surprised this number was closer to a $50 million opening and not a $100 million opening. On the plus side, the film did receive an "A-" CinemaScore from opening day audiences and is currently sitting pretty at 90% via the audience score on RottenTomatoes (which apparently counts for a lot these days). These favorable reactions can only bode well for the legs on this thing given it's the last big "event" movie of the summer and while this weekend and next will feature a combined ten new wide releases that will undoubtedly bring down that large theater count, none of these save for (maybe?) the 47 Meters Down sequel will draw heavily from the audience Hobbs & Shaw is targeting. Internationally, the film launched in sixty-three overseas markets as well with an estimated $120 million, totaling that aforementioned $180 million global debut. This performance marked the fifth largest global opening ever for the studio with the film already having garnered another $5.871 million on Monday and $8.52 million on Tuesday giving the spin-off a $74.431 million five-day domestic cume. With the strong word of mouth and fairly even split in male to female audience members, I wouldn't be surprised if the film landed only a 50-60% drop this upcoming weekend easily pushing it over $100 million domestic and getting close to if not hitting that $350 million global mark; not bad for only ten days of release even if it didn't necessarily turn in core franchise numbers. Elsewhere in box office news, this past weekend once again improved over the same weekend last year as the likes of The Lion King, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood and the platform release of A24's The Farewell each continue to play strongly. 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!

FAST & FURIOUS PRESENTS: HOBBS & SHAW Review

Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw is a movie where, in the breadth of a single scene, we are witness to a character stating that, "humanity's hate for itself is greater than its self-preservation" alongside another piece of dialogue that goes something like, "genocide, smenocide." This is to say that Hobbs & Shaw very much knows what it wants to be with the question being if by the end of its mammoth two hour and seventeen minute runtime it actually has become what it wanted to be. One might interpret these two opposing lines of dialogue (spoken by the same character, I might add) for a film that wants to have its cake and eat it too by being both a serious action film that in fact takes itself seriously while injecting consistent moments of humor with the obvious outcome being that the latter then also consistently undermines the former, but what sets Hobbs & Shaw apart from its Fast & Furious brethren is that, from the get-go, it's apparent this thing doesn't take itself serious at all-in any regard-and so, when a character does begin spouting philosophical verbiage as Idris Elba's Brixton Lore does from time to time he does it with his tongue planted firmly in his cheek. It only seems natural this would be the case in a movie where both Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson and Jason Statham play what are more or less heightened versions of their own public personas whilst The Rock takes down a helicopter with his bare hands and Statham shows off his Wing Chun kung fu, karate and kickboxing skills to the extent that if he and director David Leitch (John Wick, Atomic Blonde, Deadpool 2) don't team-up for a martial arts-heavy film series to jump-start the next phase of Statham's career I will be sorely disappointed. As the ninth film in the series, but the first spin-off it only feels like the natural evolution for Hobbs & Shaw to be as outlandish and self-aware as it is and in following through on these instincts in every situation and not attempting to get too caught-up in plot, basing anything in anything resembling reality, or details such as logic and physics Leitch and his crew end up delivering exactly what audiences are looking for from this type of summer blockbuster. Keeping a keen eye on character and an even tone with the humor and its balance with the legit action Hobbs & Shaw maintains the emphasis on character being most important as that's what brought us here in the first place while the delivery of tight fight choreography and colossal action set pieces is what convinces us that not only should we continue to care about and invest in these characters, but that the creative forces behind the scenes care about them too...and that's ultimately what allows Hobbs & Shaw to succeed at becoming exactly what it wanted to be. 

Teaser Trailer for Martin Scorsese’s THE IRISHMAN

In what felt both like an uncertainty and an inevitability legendary director Martin Scorsese and one of his most notable collaborators, Robert De Niro, have once again re-teamed with one another to produce what is not only a mob/gangster drama, but to tell a decades-spanning story that follows Frank Sheeran (De Niro), a hitman whose actions changed the course of American history. Based on Charles Brandt's 2003 novel, I Heard You Paint Houses, the film chronicles the meeting of Sheeran and Jimmy Hoffa (played in the film by Al Pacino) and is based on interviews Brandt had with Sheeran over the course of five years detailing how he handled more than twenty-five hits for the mob, and for his friend Hoffa. Though I haven't read the book, I'll certainly be looking into it prior to seeing the film as Sheeran undoubtedly shared genuinely important and fascinating insights about both many a famous murders as well as this infamous chapter in US history and how intertwined it was with the mafia. And while it is nice to see Scorsese and De Niro reuniting with one another as well as including Pacino to boot the real draw here and who Netflix and Scorsese let drive this first, teaser trailer is that of the one and only Joe Pesci. Pesci hasn't had a substantial role in a film for nearly a decade with his last screen appearance being the little seen 2010 Taylor Hackford film, Love Ranch. Seeing and more impactful even, hearing, Pesci once again as he sets up the first lines of communication between Sheeran and Hoffa triggers immediate chills being experienced. Much has also been made of the rather hefty price tag on the film (a cool $160 million) much of which was attributed to the de-aging process applied to the three screen legends mentioned thus far given this is a story that, as was stated earlier, spans decades. It's difficult to even see where this technology comes in as far as the footage in the trailer save for the final, revealing shot that puts an emphasis on De Niro's face, but there is also this weird disconnect with De Niro's roles and his real life as it's difficult to sometimes remember that De Niro doesn't exactly look the way he did in Goodfellas anymore even if that's how he's been frozen in our memory as appearing. With the film premiering as the opening night film at this year's New York Film Festival on September 27th it's hard to imagine this won't be a major awards contender this year. Here's to oping! The Irishman also stars Harvey Keitel, Ray Romano, Bobby Cannavale, Anna Paquin, Stephen Graham, Stephanie Kurtzuba, Jack Huston, Kathrine Narducci, Jesse Plemons, Domenick Lombardozzi, Paul Herman, Gary Basaraba, Marin Ireland and will open in theaters and be available on Netflix sometime this fall.

Tavern Talk: Video Review - ONCE UPON A TIME IN...HOLLYWOOD

In just nineteen days of global release Disney's photorealistic re-imagining of The Lion King has already crossed the $1 billion mark. Additionally, the $175 million Jon Favreau picture has earned $360 million of that billion in domestic dollars after only eleven days in theaters. For comparison's sake, 2016's The Jungle Book finished its theatrical run with $966 million worldwide. To boot, this makes The Lion King Disney's fourth movie this year along with Captain Marvel, Avengers: Endgame and Aladdin to pass $1 billion and both Frozen II and Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker are still to come. With $917 million as of Sunday, Toy Story 4 looks like it might just barely miss the boat. Of course, while it's been clear for some time now that there is no stopping Disney this year the big story this weekend actually belonged to Sony Pictures who produced the latest film from Quentin Tarantino as Once Upon a Time in...Hollywood-a 160-minute, R-rated drama consisting of more dialogue than action-earned $41 million making it the largest opening weekend for the director, topping the $38 million ($46 million adjusted for inflation) opening of Inglourious Basterds a decade ago. Opening day audiences gave the film a "B" CinemaScore and this combined with the fact the film was actually down 20% from Friday to Saturday and 16% from Saturday to Sunday will make for an interesting conversation when it comes to the kind of legs this $90 million production will have over the next few weeks (months?). It is also of interest how Hollywood will play overseas given this is such a geographically distinct title, but as Sony supposedly spent an additional $110 million on the film's marketing campaign the studio is essentially looking to recoup $200 million on the project meaning a strong overseas haul will be necessary. Tarantino's latest will open in Germany, France and the United Kingdom on August 16th with those being the three markets outside of the US that consistently yield the biggest results for QT. Once more for comparison's sake, Django Unchained earned $263 million of its $425 worldwide cume overseas while Inglourious Basterds earned $201 million of its $321 million worldwide take in global dollars. Given Hollywood doesn't open for a few more weeks in those major global markets it's hard to tell where this thing is headed, but given this is Tarantino's priciest film to date it will need to remain consistent in earnings while the film itself takes a detour from those aforementioned revenge fantasy narratives. Time will tell, but until then 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!

ONCE UPON A TIME IN...HOLLYWOOD Review

I've been trying for over a week now to figure out exactly why Once Upon a Time in...Hollywood, the latest opus from auteur Quentin Tarantino, hit me the way it did. As someone who's never visited California or more specifically, Hollywood, and as someone who wasn't born until nearly two decades after the year in which the film takes place there were no personal nostalgic ties to what is very clearly a very nostalgic movie for its writer and director. I love the movies as in "the movies", sure, both for their fascinating behind the scenes processes as well as certain aspects of the business and I adore the idea of crafting this love letter to a bygone era that, in many ways, is reoccurring at this very moment even if the players are very different in the similarly circumstanced game. Any piece of work that provides insight into any aspect or era of the movie business is typically something I'm game for, granted, but even my affinity for films and television shows produced in the late fifties through to the end of the sixties is low and wouldn't justify the instinctively adoring reaction these impossibly detailed re-creations of such receive and no doubt deserve. There is plenty to like and appreciate within the massive two hour and forty-minute runtime Tarantino has assembled with his latest, but it is difficult to pinpoint what exactly it is that occurs within those (nearly) three hours that not only made me long once more for days consisting of more innocence, but also genuinely made me love what I was watching and want to remain in this world he was enchanting us with. After a week of mulling over the film though, of continuing to go back to certain scenes, countless performance moments and a hundred other facets I hadn't yet considered day after day the bigger picture came to be that it wasn't necessarily any one thing in what will from now on be referred to as OUaTiH, but more it was the effect each of these elements had on one another; the meticulous re-creation of 1969 informed and enhanced the performances of these fictional characters which were in turn heightened in the context of the film by the real-life events that Tarantino weaved through his narrative so as to create a sense of familiarity while still holding tight to the destination he's driving towards. Ultimately, this stands as one of Tarantino's best, most introspective works as it delivers the feeling one wants to leave the theater with after having experienced a Tarantino flick while the experience in and of itself is something of an unexpected and surprisingly soulful one.