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.

Official Trailer for IT: CHAPTER TWO

Scoring the largest opening weekend for an R-rated movie ever, then continuing to perform week after week ultimately taking in over $700 million worldwide, the runaway success of 2017's IT gave director Andy Muschietti’s sequel the luxury of an A-list ensemble and plenty of time to develop and shoot it.  Jessica Chastain, James McAvoy, and Bill Hader lead the cast of IT: Chapter Two as the sequel picks up with the characters from the first film as adults twenty-seven years later. While not too much is known about the follow-up, we obviously know from the book and previous mini-series that a devastating phone call brings "The Losers Club" back together and back to Derry, Maine. In speaking with Entertainment Weekly Pennywise himself, Bill Skarsgård, stated that, "The arc of the first movie is that he, for the first time, experiences fear himself,” which could certainly mean the character might go in one of two drastically different directions, but it seems rather than sulk back into the darkness from which he came Pennywise will be seeking revenge as Skarsgård reiterated that this encounter with fear, "fuels hatred and anger towards the kids, who are now adults, so I think there might be an even more vicious Pennywise.” And given some of the voiceover in this new, final trailer for the epic horror film it seems this is nothing short of accurate. While I've never read Stephen King's novel and only saw the 1990 miniseries in the lead-up to the release of the 2017 film, these two films seemingly set themselves apart from your typical trash horror flicks from the get-go as Muschietti’s objective is aimed at being more illustrious than is typically seen in the horror genre and in pulling off this level of grandeur really well in that first film it only creates more reason to be excited for what this final product might deliver thematically. Along with Skarsgård, McAvoy, Chastain and Hader IT: Chapter Two will also star Javier Botet, Xavier Dolan, James Ransone, Andy Bean, Troy James, Jay Ryan, Jake Weary, Jess Weixler as well as seeing the return of Jaeden Lieberher, Finn Wolfhard, Jack Dylan Grazer, Sophia Lillis, Chosen Jacobs, and Jeremy Ray Taylor. The film is scheduled to open September 6th, 2019.

Tavern Talk: Video Review - STUBER

In what will be the last lull week of the summer until mid-August or so, Spider-Man: Far From Home repeated as the number one movie at the box office bringing in $45.3 million, for a 51% drop as the film presently sits at just over $280 million domestic. The film also added $100 million overseas this past weekend, for a global total that is now just shy of $850 million or $150 million away from a billion after only seventeen days in release. Far from Home's current international total of $570 million makes it the highest grossing Spider-Man movie internationally, besting Spider-Man 3's $555 million overseas total as well. Disney and Pixar's Toy Story 4 held in the second place spot for the second weekend in a row, dipping only 39% in its fourth week of release for a $20.94 million haul. This gives the film a domestic total thus far of nearly $350 million, now making it the fifth largest Pixar release of all-time domestically. Internationally, Toy Story 4 added $48.1 million for a $427 million total and a global tally that has now topped $775 million. It is in the third and fourth place spots that we finally get to the weekend's new releases as Paramount's R-rated alligator thriller Crawl, debuted with a somewhat surprising $12 million. As of today, Crawl has likely surpassed its budget domestically with a total of $13.3 million as of Monday on an estimated budget of $13.5 million. The film has also opened in a few markets internationally and has garnered nearly $5 million for a global total just over $18 million. Given the surprisingly good word of mouth on this one I'm eager to check it out and see how much fun it is. In our review this week, we discussed Disney's release of Fox's R-rated comedy Stuber which unfortunately stumbled in fourth place as it now sits at just over $8 million on a reported budget of $16 million. The film received a "B" CinemaScore from opening day audiences which could translate to something akin to legs as the broad comedy won't really have any competition in the genre until August 16th's Good Boys (unless you count Hobbs & Shaw), but by that point the theater count on this thing will be so dismal it almost doesn't matter. Internationally, Stuber opened in nine markets to almost $3 million placing it just shy of $12 million globally. 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 HUSTLERS Starring Jennifer Lopez

The first trailer for STX Films' Hustlers starring Jennifer Lopez, Crazy Rich Asians' Constance Wu, Keke Palmer and Riverdale's Lili Reinhart has arrived and outside of being known as the movie where J.Lo plays a stripper this is also writer/director Lorene Scafaria's highest profile project since her very good, but little seen 2012 film, Seeking a Friend for the End of the World. The director also made 2015's The Meddler with Susan Sarandon and Rose Byrne which I recall having to miss when attending that year's Toronto International Film Festival and never following-up with later, but that is all beside the point as Scafaria has now adapted Jessica Pressler's New York Magazine article “The Hustlers at Scores” and rounded up quite the all-star cast to bring to life this outlandish true story. The film tells the story of a group of strippers who band together to turn the tables on their Wall Street clients, and made bank in the process. Set in the late 2000's in New York City in the wake of the financial crisis, Scafaria's film will deal explicitly with the toll it took on this group of dancers who relied on their wall street clientele for big pay days. In this Robin Hood-like story, Lopez plays the ringleader of this group who take their plans of getting their full cut a little too far. Now, I'm sure the film will get a lot of attention for the fact it has Lopez twirling around on a pole in skimpy outfits, not to mention the rest of the cast, but having a woman at the helm of the project will seemingly only amplify the point of how each sex has to hustle in their own ways given the body they were born with and these women simply had to out-hustle a different type of hustler than themselves; the type who couldn't resist a body "with the sort of waist-to-hip ratio scientists have concluded affects men like a drug." In short, this very much looks to be a gangster drama of the Scorsese variety, but where the gangsters just also happen to be strippers and while I feel a little sorry for Andrea Berloff's The Kitchen which has similar aspirations and opens a month earlier it seems Hustlers has more of a hook that might get the buzz buzzing a little bit louder. Hustlers also stars Cardi B, Lizzo, Julia Stiles, Madeline Brewer, Stormi Maya, Frank Whaley, Usher Raymond, and opens on September 13th, 2019.

Tavern Talk: Video Review - SPIDER-MAN: FAR FROM HOME & MIDSOMMAR

Dropping movies in the middle of the week to account for a holiday and in turn, holiday crowds, always shakes things up a bit and this summer the box office needed a little shaking up after a series of franchise disappointments in June. Of course, it goes without much knowledge of the film industry that July was likely going to open with a franchise addition as well and one would be correct as the big release of last week was director Jon Watts' follow-up to 2017's Spider-Man: Homecoming, but more importantly-the first Marvel Cinematic Universe film after April's Avengers: Endgame. In Far From Home, the MCU deals with the fallout of Endgame in as skillfully a way as they probably could have-maybe even eschewing the more serious ramifications for now as many of the burning questions fans had after Endgame are resolved in quick bits of teen comedy. Saving more of that for my eventual review though, let's talk about how the film did financially. Going wide last Tuesday, July 2nd, Far From Home began its run with a $91 million Tuesday to Thursday haul while topping that over the traditional three-day weekend with an almost $93 million Friday to Sunday total. This gave the film a six-day start of over $185 million domestically to which it has since earned an additional $10 million while internationally, the webslinger delivered $244 million from 66 markets last weekend after opening in a few markets the week before for an overseas cume of $392 million and a global tally that now sits atop $588 million. This domestic performance accounted for the largest six-day opening for a Tuesday release on top of the film already delivering the largest Tuesday opening day ever, so...in other words, Marvel continues its streak of critically and commercially successful film as Far From Home also garnered a 90% on RottenTomatoes. Finishing just outside the top five was the other big release last week in A24's Midsommar, delivering $7.35 million for Tuesday to Thursday time frame, $6.56 over the traditional weekend, while finishing with nearly $11 million over the full five-day frame. While our reviewers here at TAVERN TALK by Initial Reaction both gave the film a superior five stars, Midsommar received a "C+" CinemaScore from opening day audiences, which-while not great-is actually an improvement over writer/director Ari Aster's Hereditary, which enjoyed a solid box office multiplier last June. The nearly two and a half hour runtime likely doesn't help with how many screenings people have the option of attending either, but Hereditary garnered some solid word of mouth over the course of its run and it will be interesting to see what the discussion around Midsommar will be and if it will factor into the film's box office at all. 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!

Official Trailer for JUMANJI: THE NEXT LEVEL

In a not-so-surprising turn, Sony has released the first, full length trailer for the sequel to their Christmas 2017 smash, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, the day before Spider-Man: Far From Home officially opens. Given Welcome to the Jungle is Sony's all-time top domestic earner and the film earned an insane $962 million worldwide two years ago it was a no-brainer the studio would pump out a sequel as soon as it could, but while this may feel slightly rushed in terms of attempting to capitalize on this surprise sequel, the studio was able to gather back all of the original cast members as well as director Jake Kasdan with the most surprising part being that the two (returning) screenwriters, Scott Rosenberg and Jeff Pinkner, have seemingly cooked up a story that will change things up enough from the previous film while still utilizing the aspects that made that film work so well in the first place. That is to say, Sony can seemingly keep this franchise going as long as they want given the avatars are the stars of the film and not the human counterparts who become trapped in said board/video game. To boot, the idea of having Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Jack Black, and Karen Gillan being able to adopt different personalities in each movie depending on who gets sucked into the game is a great concept and one the studio and filmmakers could have a lot of fun with over the course of a few more sequels. In Jumanji: The Next Level, our real-world friends from the previous film return to Jumanji to rescue one of their own but discover that nothing is as they expect. The players need to brave parts unknown, from arid deserts to snowy mountains, in order to escape the world's most dangerous game. Of course, the hook here is that Hart and Johnson are no longer playing polar opposite high school kids, but two curmudgeonly old friends in the form of Danny DeVito and Danny Glover. Needless to say, Johnson and Hart doing impressions of DeVito and Glover is the last thing I thought I needed in my life, but after today I need it more than most things. This should be another fun adventure flick with a strong re-watchability factor and I can't wait to see what Kasdan and crew have in store this Christmas. Jumanji: The Next Level also sees the return of Alex Wolff, Madison Iseman, Morgan Turner, Ser'Darius Blain, Nick Jonas, Rhys Darby, and Colin Hanks while Awkwafina and Dania Ramirez join the cast as the film is set to open on December 13th, 2019.

ANNABELLE COMES HOME Review

Annabelle Comes Home, the third film in this particular series and seventh in the ongoing “Conjuring universe” is either as good or mediocre as one might expect it to be depending on their level of expectation walking in. For someone such as myself, someone who hasn’t seen either of the previous Annabelle features due to the poor reputation of the first, but also enjoys an entertaining horror flick with a sly sense of humor Annabelle Comes Home turned out to be something of a bonkers, go-for-broke genre flick that ends up being a lot of fun due to the fact expectations dictated this would be no fun at all. Those going in expecting anything more might be slightly underwhelmed given the typical beats the slim outline of a story adheres to as well as a certain lack of grimness that typically permeates from this series. With such tempered expectations though, it’s not difficult to see why the trio of McKenna Grace, Madison Iseman, and Katie Sarife become so endearing to the point all the mini-teasers for every other upcoming “Conjuring universe” movie hardly countered the sympathy the audience builds for each of the three girls simple yet effective character arcs. As executed by Conjuring-verse writer and first-time feature director Gary Dauberman, Annabelle Comes Home might make you wonder what the budget on fog machines alone was, but it also genuinely escalates in a way that by the time the film reaches the aforementioned gonzo third act it feels earned and not simply like an obligation. Additionally, Dauberman does a fine job of imitating James Wan's (Saw, Insidious, The Conjuring) sweeping sense of menace as the first-time filmmaker opts for more practical scares than CGI spirits. There is a glaring exception to this no CGI rule in the "Black Shuck" folktale from the British Isles, but otherwise Dauberman and his team use a combination of elaborate make-up, simple camera tricks, and some of the most intense sound design ever configured in order to not just create these creatures, but truly craft their presence. Furthermore, it is in both the attention to and appreciation of detail at the level executed here that Annabelle Comes Home turns out to be less a rote reel of horror cliches and more a fun twist on the "house of horrors" concept; the scares getting increasingly more elaborate the deeper one goes while feeling more a rush of excitement and adrenaline as opposed to actual terror by the time it comes to an end. 

Tavern Talk: Video Review - TOY STORY 4

As stated last week in this post, it was expected that after the general downturn in profit and excitement for Godzilla: King of the Monsters, X-Men: Dark Phoenix, and MIB: International that Toy Story 4 would reverse the case of sequelitis that was plaguing the summer of 2019 and to some extent...that was true. The $200 million Disney/Pixar production debuted with $118 million over the weekend and marked the largest opening in the franchise's history, but also came in well below expectations as well as the openings of other recent Pixar sequels such as last year's Incredibles II ($183 million) and Finding Dory ($135 million) in 2016. Furthermore, Toy Story 4's opening would be less than Toy Story 3's $110 million opened weekend in 2019 adjusted for inflation. With the studio setting their expectations around the $140 million mark prior to the weekend, the pundits went even higher given the film was generating rave reviews, scoring a 98% on RottenTomatoes and an 83 on Metacritic, that were reported to be coupled with record-breaking pre-sale figures per Fandango.com which stated the film was outperforming the sales of Incredibles II. All that to say, an opening north of at least $160 million didn't seem out of the question. So what happened? Per Forbes' Scott Mendelson this seems to be due to the fact that, among other things, "this wasn't the long-awaited second installment of Brad Bird's Incredibles series, nor was it the somewhat surprising first/only sequel to Andrew Stanton's Finding Nemo. This was the fourth Toy Story movie, one existing after the rather perfect series finale that was the final scene of Toy Story 3." And this makes sense, this has been a series going on for some twenty-four years now and while all three of the previous Toy Story films undoubtedly get repeat plays in the average home with children the age of their target audience-those children also have more Pixar options now and more specifically, Pixar options that are exclusively "theirs". All of this taken into consideration, the film is still the fourth-biggest animated launch of all-time and adheres to Pixar's general rule of quality that it will likely equate to strong legs over the next month until The Lion King opens. In other new release news, the Child's Play re-make came in second with an estimated $14 million on a reported budget of around $10 million which is good news considering the film received a "C+" CinemaScore from opening day audiences suggesting this thing will fall like your typical horror flick over the next few weeks. The only other major release of the week was Luc Besson's Anna which opened outside the top ten as the Lionsgate release of the Summit action/thriller debuted to $3.5 million on a reported budget of $30 million. On the plus side, the film did receive a "B+" CinemaScore, so maybe there is a shot at life in a post-theatrical run? What did you see this weekend? Let us know in the comments and 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!