Happy Death Day Review

Director Christopher B. Landon and a Game Cast Headed by Jessica Rothe Give this Groundhog Day-style Teen Slasher Film a Fresh Spin.

Blade Runner 2049 Review

Director Denis Villeneuve Continues the Story that Began in 1982's Blade Runner with this Uncompromising, Beautiful, and Visually Captivating Sequel.

The Foreigner Review

Jackie Chan and Pierce Brosnan Square-Off in this Martin Campbell-Directed Revenge Thriller that Aspires for Much, but Comes Away with Less.

IT Review

Director Andy Muschietti and a Charismatic Cast of Kids Allow this Stephen King Adaptation to be About More than just the Clown.

The Mountain Between Us Review

Kate Winslet and Idris Elba Elevate this Melodramatic Love Story to the Best it can be, but There's no Fooling Anyone of the Level of Cheese.

Initial Reaction: Video Review - HAPPY DEATH DAY

While we were somewhat behind on our viewing and reviewing of Blade Runner 2049, Happy Death Day only comes up short in the managing to post our review on YouTube in a timely manner category as we saw the new teen slasher movie last Thursday, on the eve of Friday the 13th, just as it was meant to be seen. That said, having Happy Death Day debut on a Friday the 13th in October is a no-brainer and both Universal and Blumhouse reaped the benefits as they scored another win in the horror genre for the third time this year after the massive successes that were Split and Get Out. The Christopher Landon-directed horror flick (that is just as much a comedy, honestly) easily topped last weekend's box office by raking in $26.5 million and outperforming the opening weekend for The Visit, which went on to gross $65.2 million two years ago. Based on the average for Blumhouse titles debuting over $20 million, it seems completely reasonable to expect Happy Death Day will also make a $60 million domestic run, especially given there are two weekends remaining before Halloween and college students will be on fall break at some point in that timeline which, not surprisingly, was what made up the majority of Happy Death Day's audience. Scoring a "B" CinemaScore from opening day audiences the film saw 63% of that audience being under the age of 25 proving kids do in fact still go to the cinemas, at least every once in a while. Happy Death Day also debuted in 11 markets last weekend and brought in an estimated $5 million for what currently sits as a $35 million worldwide total with the film set to open in 16 more territories, including the U.K. this weekend. Meanwhile, Blade Runner 2049 dropped over 50% in its second weekend, while STX's The Foreigner debuted with a modest, but good for its budget 12.8 million from 2,515 theaters. Lastly, Open Road's Marshall delivered on expectations with an estimated $3 million from 821 locations. As always, be sure to follow the official Initial Reaction YouTube channel as well as on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter where you can find a new review (or reviews) each week!

Initial Reaction: Video Review - BLADE RUNNER 2049

It has been nearly two weeks since the first shows for Blade Runner 2049 began screening for general audiences, but despite the time lapse both myself and my co-host on Initial Reaction, Mr. Charles Browder, felt the need to get down our thoughts and conversation in a quick little video review that has now been uploaded to the channel. If you've been following the channel at all you'll know we have no longer been able to film at our regular theater that allowed for us to film inside after screening the films on Thursday nights and having to re-locate, not being allowed certain liberties as well as other factors have very much thrown off the logistics of what was, for a while, a pretty well-oiled machine. Hopefully, one day, we'll get back to a routine where we're able and allowed to have freer reign over our production, but as for now it's kind of a fly by the seat of our pants operation. All of that is to say, both Charles and I really enjoyed Blade Runner 2049 and wanted to discuss it. Unfortunately, it seems not as many people were clamoring for this thirty-five year later sequel as Warner Bros. was probably hoping for given the $150 million production debuted to a mild $31.5 million domestically while internationally, the film met overseas expectations, debuting with an estimated $50.2 million from 63 markets, capturing the #1 spot in 45 of those markets. Currently, the film sits at $64 million domestically and $95 million internationally for a worldwide total of $159.8 million which does mean the film has made back its production budget and still has release dates in both China and Japan next week, 10/27, but the promotion machine for this thing was top of the line and Warner Bros. is no doubt hoping it breaks out in at least one of those markets as it seemed the film was destined to be much bigger than it has come to be. Still, it's hard to dispute the quality of the film and if there was an opportunity to put our two cents in and maybe just encourage even a few people to take a chance on seeing Blade Runner 2049 on the big screen it was worth it and thus our review is now on the channel. As always, be sure to follow the official Initial Reaction YouTube channel as well as on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter where you can find a new review (or reviews) each week!

MARSHALL Review

One might think, given Chadwick Boseman has now played three historical characters in three rather high profile biopics, that it is not only something the actor enjoys or is good at, but that these historical figures might begin to meld together in one fashion or another as far as their screen personas are concerned. If nothing else though, Marshall proves that Boseman is as skilled an actor as he is a disguise artist given his representation of the titular character in Marshall is as different and unexpected as his incarnations of Jackie Robinson and James Brown were before. The fact Boseman doesn't really share any physical features with the late Marshall isn't distracting for, as Boseman has done in the past, he seemingly captures a spirit or an essence of that person-even if their personality wasn't widely known-and delivers in his portrayal that real personality. It's authentic and it's something you can't manufacture. Lucky for audiences, Boseman's performance and its definitive nature in clarifying Boseman's transformative abilities is not all the movie has to offer as Marshall is a number of interesting things bound together in a seamless and rather moving package that just so happens to include another phenomenal turn from an actor who has shown time and time again that there is no reason to doubt his talent or his choices. Furthermore, Marshall is as much a movie about Mr.  Thurgood Marshall, American lawyer and eventual Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, as it is about Sam Friedman (Josh Gad), an insurance lawyer from Greenwich, Connecticut who comes to form something of an uncommon bond with the famed lawyer who went from town to town for the NAACP fighting for African Americans who were on trial not for their deeds, but for their race. It is important to note that Friedman was a white Jew (this takes place in 1941, mind you) and is someone who no doubt faced prejudice in his own life to certain extents, but it is this combination of Boseman and Gad and their buddy dynamic, of the biopic and the courtroom drama, and of those whodunit aspects with the structure of a super hero origin story that sets Marshall apart from not just being another serious drama pining for awards by portraying real-life events, but a motion picture that is genuine in its attempt to portray all facets of the life of a man who strove for nothing but admirable change.  

New Trailer for BLACK PANTHER Starring Chadwick Boseman

Marvel's has somewhat unexpectedly, but not really dropped a new trailer for Black Panther today helping everyone's week get off to a better than usual start. While this was expected at some point before Thor: Ragnarok arrived in theaters I'm slightly surprised Marvel has decided to go a full two weeks before the actual release date. That said, this will only get all those who were going to see Ragnarok on the first day anyway all the more pumped for the next installment of their cinematic universe while simultaneously getting the the Marvel faithful as excited as ever for what's right around the corner. All of this is obviously a pretty big deal as it is one of the few African-American led comic book movies and the first for Marvel Studios despite having included characters like Falcon in other films. In the wake of Wonder Woman this summer Black Panther continues to shows the diversification of what that former status quo believed itself to be. It's frankly wonderful to see such major shifts taking place and being executed by major studios as it relays bigger cultural and social impacts than some might even realize, but all of this good is made even better when the film itself tends to look promising. Of course, there was no reason to ever think Black Panther was risky given Marvel enlisted director Ryan Coogler (Fruitvale Station, Creed) to helm the project. This paired with the fact we already got our first look at Chadwick Boseman's titular character in last year's Captain America: Civil War which in and of itself was pretty fantastic. Take all of this and add to the ever-growing promise of the film that Coogler also rounded-up frequent collaborator Michael B. Jordan to play the film's antagonist Erik Killmonger and you have what is more or less a guaranteed quality picture if not a guaranteed box office smash due to the fact it is another in a long line of Marvel successes. As for the trailer itself, Coogler and his team certainly seem to have found a look and tone they wanted to work in as the visual effects have improved since that first trailer and there is a scope here that was missing before-a scope that feels appropriate when introducing audiences to an entirely new nation. Black Panther also stars Lupita Nyong'o, Danai Gurira, Daniel Kaluuya, Angela Bassett, Andy Serkis, Forest Whitaker, Florence Kasumba, Martin Freeman, John Kani, Winston Duke, Sterling K. Brown, Phylicia Rashad, and opens on February 16th, 2018.

THE FOREIGNER Review

At the age of sixty-three and nearly seven years after any type of significant showing on the big screen I imagine Jackie Chan doesn't necessarily want to be starring in second rate scripts Liam Neeson passed on as someone called Quan Ngoc Minh. I imagine he'd like to be making more thought-provoking actioners or maybe even interesting character pieces, but that just doesn't seem to be in the cards for the poor guy. He seems to have tried his hand at making low-risk action/comedies and has done an abundance of voice over work, most recently in the subpar The LEGO Ninjago Movie, but the question has now become that of how does a man always known for his agility and stylistic fighting abilities age into a Hollywood environment based on franchises and brand recognition? Well, make Rush Hour 4 obviously. This is kind of the point though, as Chan has played in seemingly everything the industry could think to put him in, so it makes sense that now-as there is no shortage of aging stars that were once marquee names who are willing to try their hand at being action stars-that a true action star would join in on the fun. Unfortunately, The Foreigner isn't that much fun. As much as this feels like a last resort of sorts for Chan it is a double-edged sword for that of his co-star Pierce Brosnan. Brosnan would seemingly like to be a well-regarded leading man in more mature fare, but it is likely he sees no other options in maintaining his relevancy and so we will continue to get things such as leading roles like in The November Man (though I wonder if he could even pull off something like that only three years after the fact) and supporting roles such as this before having a late in life career renaissance that will leave his legacy as more than just the guy who once played James Bond...or maybe that arc will be saved for Daniel Craig. All of this is to say that both Chan and Brosnan as well as director Martin Campbell (The Mask of ZorroGoldeneye, Casino Royale) have been put to better use in much better movies as The Foreigner feels like a much-delayed attempt to hop on the now sub-genre of older, unsuspecting guys kicking ass and taking names. The Foreigner is a film as generic as anything we've seen this year which is a shame considering it doesn't utilize its stars strongest asset to great effect. I like Jackie Chan, you can't help but to root for the guy and that is inevitable here as well despite the fact that every few minutes you might have to ask yourself where these characters are, where they're going, and/or what exactly they're doing and for what reason. It's that kind of movie though, one that by the time the credits roll you'll shrug it off and move on; no harm and no real foul.

HAPPY DEATH DAY Review

The test for a movie that shows us the same thing over and over again is whether or not it makes us want to return to it over and over again. Does it use this technique in a way that it twists the conventions of whatever genre it is being applied to in a unique enough fashion that it brings something fresh to what we've seen before? In short, does it make something familiar feel born again-the same way our protagonist feels every time they wake up with another opportunity to live their best life. That is ultimately what these kinds of movies are about, right? The hypothetical shot at being able to live your life over and over again to the point you appreciate and/or realize what one has been taking for granted and how much there is to truly be thankful for. This doesn't change with writer's Scott Lobdell's (X-Men: Days of Future Past) interpretation of the material in Happy Death Day as he adapts it for the horror/teen slasher genre, but the basic idea of applying it to this kind of movie with the added caveat of our main character having to put together the pieces of who's trying to kill her in a single day is pretty ingenious with director Christopher B. Landon (Paranormal Activity II, III, IV and V as well as the supremely underrated Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse) mining the material and the setting for all its worth in his execution. Landon, son of the late Michael Landon, has a knack for mixing scares and humor and eliciting the fun that can come from being scared. In other words, he understands that being afraid should entail a whole range of emotions and not just the single one that causes you to jump from your seat. Due to this, it would be easy to mistake his latest for more of a comedy than a horror/thriller, but that it layers in elements of each of these with effective measure is what makes the movie such a fun ride to go along with. Sure, we've seen this kind of situation play out before, most notably in Groundhog's Day and since in other genres through the likes of Source CodeEdge of Tomorrow, Before I Fall, and the countless iterations of William Dean Howells' 1892 short story "Christmas Every Day" that you've no doubt seen at least one version of around the holidays, but in taking this concept and applying it to a cheeky genre exercise like Scream both Lobdell and Landon have created a knowing horror flick that revels in the main trope and has fun with the archetypes. So yeah, I'd watch Happy Death Day again. And probably again.

Red-Band Trailer for BLOCKERS Starring John Cena

The first, red-band trailer for Universal's Blockers has arrived and it finally feels as if we might have a solid comedy waiting in the wings. Over what was a notoriously dry summer that saw Snatched, Baywatch, The House, and The Hitman's Bodyguard do little to nothing for the genre (not to mention Edgar Wright making another good film, but not necessarily a funny one) most audiences relied on the likes of dramedies such as The Big Sick and maybe Logan Lucky (for those who actually saw it) to garner a few laughs while even the animated fare was somewhat light on quality with Captain Underpants maybe being the best, but least seen of the bunch. All of that to say, the fall awards season isn't particularly known for its sense of humor, but while we'll get a few comedies in the form of sequels such as Daddy's Home 2 and A Bad Mom's Christmas I'll be looking forward to next spring when an original and seemingly clever comedy like Blockers drops. I'm surprised much of the reception to this has been negative as I found much of the situational stuff here to be pretty appealing in terms of the comedy being elicited from the generational gap which typically plays pretty stale. Maybe I simply have more trust in the movie as a whole because it is the directorial debut of Kay Cannon who has cut her teeth as a writer on New Girl and the Pitch Perfect series before jumping into the director's chair. I tend to appreciate Cannon's offbeat and rather random sense of humor that she infuses into her projects and I look forward to how that crosses over into her filmmaking style. It also doesn't hurt that Cannon's lead trio consisting of Leslie Mann, Ike Barinholtz, and John Cena seem to have great chemistry between one another and make for a group of friends I could see having fun hanging out with outside of watching them in a movie. Mann and Barinholtz definitely know their way around a studio comedy, but it will be nice to see Cena take on a larger role in a live action comedy after that scene-stealing performance in Trainwreck a few years back. All of that said, I hope this breaks the mold of stale studio comedies for, if you saw the trailer for Father Figures a few weeks back, you'll recognize how dry the well has indeed run. Blockers also stars Kathryn Newton, Geraldine Viswanathan, Graham Phillips, Gideon Adlan, Jake Picking, Ramona Young, Miles Robbins, Jimmy Bellinger, and opens on April 6th, 2018.

BLADE RUNNER 2049 Review

The plan for Blade Runner 2049, the thirty-five year later sequel to director Ridley Scott's 1982 now classic Blade Runner, was to watch Scott's "final cut" of the film prior to seeing director Denis Villeneuve's (Prisoners, Sicario, Arrival) follow-up. The original Blade Runner is one of those movies that I was always told I needed to watch and indeed started countless times, but never actually made it all the way through. Whether it was due to a lack of intrigue, bad timing, or something of the like I somehow ended up feeling rather familiar with the world Scott created from this Philip K. Dick short story without ever really becoming aware of the narrative it was relaying. Alas, there wasn't time to squeeze in a viewing of the original film prior to my wife and I's planned date night this past Saturday (things happen when you have an almost three year-old and Friday night, Blade Runner didn't happen) and so, with little knowledge of exactly what to expect from Blade Runner 2049 other than a visually stunning experience (cinematographer Roger Deakins is once again responsible for what we see here) this second, seemingly more intrusive story into the world of replicants and their version of the future happened. So, did I understand everything that happened? I think so. Did I appreciate everything as much as the guy behind me who said "wow" out loud no less than seventeen times throughout the two hour and forty-five minute runtime? Probably not. Still, Blade Runner 2049 is a movie that is able to stand on its own to a degree, but certainly benefits from having the knowledge of what occurred in the prior installment. Having gone back since seeing 2049 and watched the final cut of the original film I feel as if I've had a unique enough experience with the larger story being told that my individual experience with the film is something of a reverse of the rose-tinted glasses idiom in that the original film is not one that has been unduly idolized because of its stance in pop culture before I had the opportunity to make up my own mind about it, but rather my perspective on the original is of more significance because I know where these characters go and I know what the actions took in that initial film lead to. This inverse experience while, not necessarily recommended, tends to only make 2049 that much more mystical-that much more epic and that much more meaningful.