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 - DOCTOR SLEEP

We were somewhat off in our guestimate over at Tavern Talk last week concerning what would come in atop the box office as we, like most folks, assumed it would be Doctor Sleep, the adaptation of Stephen King's sequel to The Shining, starring Ewan McGregor and directed by Mike Flanagan (The Haunting of Hill House), but we all know what assuming does and that old saying couldn't have proven more true over last weekend as the $50 million budgeted Doctor Sleep turned in an extremely poor $14 million performance over its first three days of release. Initially, Doctor Sleep was tracking to launch with $25 million or more, but ended up finishing in second to fellow newcomer, Midway, a Roland Emmerich (Independence Day) directed WWII flick about the clash between the American fleet and the Imperial Japanese Navy which marked a pivotal turning point in the Pacific Theater during the war. This makes for another disappointment in a string of disappointments for Warner Brothers as, outside of Joker and IT Chapter Two, the studio has had a a number of underperformers this fall including Motherless Brooklyn, The Goldfinch, Blinded by the Light and The Kitchen. On the bright side, Doctor Sleep did score a "B+" CinemaScore from opening day audiences, which is solid, but the fact this opened just after Halloween along with the fact crowds were 57% male and 74% over the age of twenty-five suggests people simply weren't interested in a horror film that put all its eggs in the "forty year-later sequel to a classic" basket. People know The Shining, sure, but do they still care about it? Apparently not. Internationally, Doctor Sleep opened in sixty-eight markets over the last two weeks and presently stands at $20 million internationally for a global total of just $34 million. Needless to say, the film has a lot of ground to cover and not much time to do so as the market will only continue to be flooded both with more adult a family friendly fare the closer we get to the Thanksgiving holiday. In another surprise turn, Paramount's family comedy Playing with Fire starring John Cena beat out Universal's holiday-themed Last Christmas for third place with an estimated $13 million while the Emilia Clarke/Henry Golding rom-com made about $12 million from an audience that was 65% female and 65% over the age of twenty-five. Rounding out the top five was Terminator: Dark Fate which, in its second weekend, scored around $10.8 million for a domestic cume that now stands at $48.45 million while adding another $29.9 million internationally for a global tally just shy of $200 million. 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!       

DOCTOR SLEEP Review

How does one craft a forty year-later sequel to what is widely considered one of if not the greatest horror film of all time that is also based on a sequel novel by an author that didn't appreciate the aforementioned film adaptation? In other words, how does one approach making a film based on a book that is the sequel to the original source material as well as being a sequel to the film adaptation that the author of both novels didn't care for? Tricky, right? Complicated? Complex? Beyond difficult? Sure, it's all of these things and while I've not read any Stephen King in some time (we're talking probably high school) and wasn't aware the master of horror had penned a sequel to The Shining in 2013 it seems inevitable still that this is where we are six years later with the one hundred and fifty-two minute Doctor Sleep. In the same amount of time since King's follow-up was released, writer/director Mike Flanagan burst onto the scene with a feature length adaptation of his short film, Oculus, that paved the way for him to become Netflix's go-to guy for original horror content as the filmmaker not only produced original films for the streaming service like Before I Wake and Hush, but also got his feet wet with another King adaptation in 2017's Gerald's Game then going on to oversee the wildly successful TV series, The Haunting of Hill House, that premiered to rave reviews last year. This is all to say that Flanagan has developed a style all his own and more importantly-a penchant for gauging the type of scares and imagery to best represent the horrors of a given story-meaning he's able to grasp the characters and their circumstances in a way where the scares aren't for the sake of the genre, but are in fact appropriate and even further, indicative, of the type of narrative being disclosed. Flanagan does this through soft, but illuminating character moments in which he latches onto certain aspects of an individual bound to serve a significant role in the story he's telling and then track the arc of said character trait through the more genre-specific events that naturally tend to enlighten the character to this side of themselves they may have either not previously considered or wanted to face in ways that are emotionally compelling and thematically resonant. Thus is the case with adult Danny Torrance (Ewan McGregor) in Doctor Sleep as Flanagan's now distinctive approach blends with the style of Stanley Kubrick's 1980 film and the tone of King's writing to create a well-rounded, expertly balanced yet equally effective journey that is both everything fans of the original film might have hoped for as much as it is wholly its own endeavor; a bridge between who we were meant to be, who we become and the resilience necessary to counteract the detrimental and absolve one's self of their past in order to continue to shine.   

Tavern Talk: Video Review - TERMINATOR: DARK FATE

After something of a lag in major releases last week, the first weekend in November kicked off the final two months of the year with what was supposed to be a bang, but while there's no doubt the movie itself contains many an explosion, Terminator: Dark Fate was little more than a whimper at the box office. One might even say it suffered a...dark fate (ay dios mio!). Though September and October offered several solid contenders for the awards race and as Joker continues to do monster business (dropping only 30% in its fifth week of release and remaining solidly in second place while closing in on $300 million domestic) it is November and December that tend to see big, non-stop major releases and awards contenders opening week to week. With a budget of $185 million, Tim "Deadpool" Miller's shot at a sixth Terminator film (the third in a decade) opened to only $29 million over the first three days coming in well below industry expectations which had the film pegged for a $40+ million opening. Internationally, the film made $73 million from forty-eight markets, including $28 million from China alone bringing the film's international total to $94.6 million and a $125.6 million worldwide cume. While Paramount and whatever international distributors are handling the film will hope for a solid second weekend to at least break even on the production budget, odds aren't in the films favor as a trio of new releases open this week for a variety of demographics, but the R-rated follow-up to The Shining, Doctor Sleep, could take a real bite out of Terminator's potential audience not to mention its theater count. The film will also open this weekend in Japan, Norway, Poland, Taiwan and Bolivia, so here's to hoping those international numbers show something resembling consistency. As stated, Joker came in second with $13.5 million while adding another $38.8 million internationally, pushing the film's overseas total past $637.7 million for a worldwide cume that now sits at $936.9 million. For the biggest story featuring a new release though, we have to skip past Maleficent: Mistress of Evil in third ($13 million for an $85 million domestic total thus far) and go to fourth place where we find Focus Features' Harriet, the Harriet Tubman biopic starring Cynthia Erivo (Widows), which opened in 2,059 locations and scored an $11.6 million opening (a per theater average of nearly $6,000) on a budget of $17 million. The film received an "A+" CinemaScore from opening day audiences and this along with the fact the platform releases for The Lighthouse, Jojo Rabbit and Parasite continue to do strong business despite limited engagements hint at a strong awards season ahead. 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 - MALEFICENT: MISTRESS OF EVIL

This weekend saw the release of two new sequels in Disney's Maleficent: Mistress of Evil and Sony's Zombieland: Double Tap and TAVERN TALK shot reviews for both as we highlight the Disney sequel this week given it topped the box office while you can look for our video review of Double Tap tomorrow. With essentially $37 million, Mistress of Evil opened atop the weekend box office, but failed to reach either studio or industry expectations as that number is just over half of the $69 million opening of the 2014 original. Internationally, Maleficent launched in all major markets, bringing in an estimated $118 million for a worldwide total that now sits at $157 million on an estimated production budget of $185 million. Needless to say, this one will have a lot of ground to cover over the next few weeks to earn its spot as the "go-to" theatrical option for family Halloween entertainment. That said, and though this sequel skews a little older than the first film, there isn't another major release with less than a PG-13 rating for another month when Frozen II will decimate everything in its path. This open playing field combined with the fact that those who did decide to see the film in theaters opening weekend did in fact enjoy it are all positives pointing towards not exactly a fairy tale ending, but a "good enough" one. Opening weekend audiences gave the film an "A" CinemaScore as it currently holds a 96% audience score on RottenTomatoes as well. In second place, Joker continued to post impressive numbers and strong holds as the R-rated comic book film from Warner Brothers dropped only 48% in its third weekend for $29.3 million and a current domestic total of $250 million. Internationally, the film added another $77.8 million for a $490 million global cume and a worldwide total that is now north of $740 million. In third is where we find Zombieland: Double Tap as the film delivered on the high end of industry expectations, bringing in almost $27 million over the three-day weekend. Of note is the fact the sequel actually debuted higher than its predecessor, outpacing the unadjusted $24.7 million opening total of the 2009 original, The decade in between certainly factors into the comparison, but inflation aside this is one the year’s few direct sequels to open bigger than its predecessor. Double Tap received a "B+" CinemaScore from opening day audiences and like Maleficent, will presumably benefit from the Halloween holiday, but given the film is only playing in seventeen overseas markets and has grossed almost $35 million worldwide on a production budget of $42 million it seems Sony shouldn't be too concerned and go ahead and consider this a win. 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!

Final Trailer for STAR WARS: EPISODE IX - THE RISE OF SKYWALKER

It's hard to believe the monumental finale of the Skywalker saga is officially upon us, but maybe more surprising is the fact that-as a devoted Star Wars fan-I'm only cautiously optimistic about how good the film might turn out to be and only mildly intrigued by where the story will take us  after 2017's disappointing (for me) The Last Jedi. Needless to say, both excitement and expectations have been tempered for this last installment. If it's not obvious already, I was not a fan of Rian Johnson's middle chapter in what is seemingly the third and final trilogy in the main series of Star Wars films as it almost irreverently disregarded everything writer/director J.J. Abrams set-up in 2015's The Force Awakens. And while Abrams is back to complete this trilogy he began four years ago one cannot help but feel much of the air has already left the room despite the fact what we have seen so far seems to deliver what longtime fans of the franchise want and what I can only imagine is equally intriguing to those who enjoyed Johnson's take on the universe as I have to believe they are as equally intrigued as to where the story could go after where Johnson left it. While story, character, and plot details have been incredibly mum we do know the story does not pick up immediately after the events of TLJ and concerns the core group of new characters going on an adventure together. Here's to hoping lowered expectations lead to a greater reward. Abrams and Lucasfilm director Kathleen Kennedy have continued to discuss the importance of practical versus visual effects in this trilogy as a whole and while there is certainly no lack of special effects in this trailer one of the best things one can say about the aesthetic of this trailer is how grounded it actually feels. Legacy players like Anthony Daniels, Lando Calrissian himself Billy Dee Williams, Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher will return for this final chapter as do new generation cast members including Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Adam Driver, Lupita Nyong'o, Kelly Marie Tran, Joonas Suotamo, and Billie Lourd while this film will also feature newcomers Naomi Ackie who we know plays a character named Jannah along with Keri Russell and Richard E. Grant. The film will also introduce us to BB-8's new friend, Dio. Star Wars: Episode IX - The Rise of Skywalker opens on December 20th, 2019. Get your tickets now!

MALEFICENT: MISTRESS OF EVIL Review

For a movie that primes its audience to experience a tale of villainy and "pure evil" as incarnated by the title character of Maleficent (Angelina Jolie returning), Maleficent: Mistress of Evil largely doesn't fulfill its promise as the character is a mistress in the sense she's in a position of authority or control, but never does she wield these positions in ways one would exclusively associate with or consider to be "evil". Misunderstood, sure, but evil? Nah. Like the 2014 original, this sequel is more telling the audience a story we were unaware of concerning the character with the intention of ultimately altering our opinion of her and gaining a newfound sympathy for the character as her representation in the 1959 Disney animated classic was apparently a by-product of those circumstances and not "the whole story"; a reputation built off a single perspective of not only an isolated incident, but one with some justification as far as Maleficent's emotions were concerned even if her actions never could be. While that 2014 film was more or less restricted by the original tale of Sleeping Beauty (we've seen the iconic cursing of the baby moment in live action, so let's move on) this second chapter in Maleficent's story breaks free of those constraints and pushes the narrative past Aurora's (Elle Fanning, also returning) sixteenth birthday and on into adulthood where she is now set to wed the re-cast Prince Philip (Harris Dickinson instead of Brenton Thwaites) as they start a life of their own together whereas Maleficent had now inadvertently become something of a mother figure to this young woman she originally cursed and has therefore only recently come to feel as if she's gained the genuine love of what she might describe as a family. Jolie's Maleficent exudes this gracefulness as embodied through the strong presence of Jolie herself as she is not only a warrior and commander, but a woman who is complex in her deep, emotional feelings that the film demonstrates are also possible for someone of such strong nature to possess. It is this characterization and the breaking of such long-standing archetypes that truly allows this sequel to outshine not only its predecessor, but the majority of these live-action Disney re-makes or re-tellings. Director Joachim Rønning (Kon-Tiki, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales) takes over from Robert Stromberg and brings with him an aesthetic less reliant on big, CGI spectacle (though there is still plenty of this) and a visual prowess more interested in broadening the scope of the world the first film only hinted at. At the same time, Linda Woolverton's screenplay brings together a trifecta of female characters that serve as the heart and soul of the themes of the narrative coalescing in a sequel that not only surpasses the quality of the original (which, admittedly-was not a high bar) by doing everything that original wanted to do, only better.

Tavern Talk: Video Review - GEMINI MAN

Despte the fact the second weekend of October sported three new, major wide releases there was no chance any would be dethroning Joker as the Clown Prince of the box office given the film not only ended up topping the weekend box office domestically, but also both internationally and worldwide. The $55 million production has already generated $563.6 million globally in its first twelve days and will likely pass $600 million before its third full weekend of release even begins. The film has been holding incredibly well day to day as the film dropped a mere 13% from its first Monday to this past Monday. The film is already the seventh highest grossing movie of the year so far and shows no signs of slowing down even as major studio releases such as the Maleficent and Zombieland sequels hit theaters this weekend alongside a slew of platform releases for Oscar hopefuls in the likes of Jojo Rabbit and The Lighthouse. This week on TAVERN TALK by initial reaction though, we discussed what was presumed would be the biggest of those aforementioned newcomers in Ang Lee's collaboration with Will Smith in Gemini Man and yet it was actually UAR's animated The Addams Family that led the way with a solid second place debut delivering an estimated $30.3 million over the three-day weekend. Meanwhile, Paramount's Gemini Man landed in third as Lee's action-thriller that was more an excuse to play with and explore the limits of this technology that created a younger and fully CGI version of Smith ballooned the budget while not necessarily adding anything to the overall movie-going experience given less than a handful of theaters were able to play the film in 3D and at the higher frame rate as intended. Rather, I assume that the majority of those who saw Gemini Man this weekend saw it as I did-in regular ole 24 FPS and in your standard 2D, 4K theater. This is all to say that had the film been made because it wanted to tell a certain story rather than utilize a certain piece of technology a debut of $20.5 million wouldn't be a big deal, but given the film cost $138 million the story is a little different. Internationally, Gemini Man debuted in five markets earlier this month and expanded to fifty-eight last weekend from which it brought in $31.1 million for an overseas cume that now totals $39 million and a current worldwide sum of $70.1 million. The film has yet to open in Japan or Taiwan, where it will open on October 25, but needless to say-this was not exactly the kind of "Big Willie Weekend" Lee and nor the Fresh Prince were hoping for. 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!