Thor: Ragnarok Review

Director Taika Waititi brings Chris Hemsworth's God of Thunder into the Current Marvel Phase with a Standard Structure, but some Hilariously Inspired Moments.

Daddy's Home 2 Review

Stars Mark Wahlberg and Will Ferrell Reunite in this Unnecessary Sequel, but are Charming Enough to Provide Reliable if not Quality Entertainment.

Murder on the Orient Express Review

Director/Star Kenneth Branagh Corals an All-Star Cast for his Take on Agatha Christie's Murder/Mystery, but he Plays by the Rules in this Standard Revision.

JIGSAW Review

The Eight Time is not a Charm for the Saw Franchise as this Latest Entry from the Spierig Brothers Fails to breathe New Life into the Franchise.

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.

Initial Reaction: Video Review - MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS

It was always kind of a given that Thor: Ragnarok would take the top spot at the box office for a second week in a row, but that didn't mean there was going to be a fight for second! And while Marvel's seventeenth entry in their cinematic universe did indeed take the top spot bringing in another $56.6 million for what was only a 56% drop in its second weekend, pushing the film's domestic gross over $211 million after just ten days in release giving it enough to have already bested the domestic gross for both the first Thor ($181m) and Thor: The Dark World ($206.3m). So, while some might be thinking super hero fatigue will have to set in eventually there seems to be no sign of slowing the MCU as things only continue to get bigger, more lucrative, and just as well received if not more so as the franchise marches on. We're not really hear to talk about Thor: Ragnarok though, but rather the focus is on the two new big releases over last weekend as both the topic of our review this week, Kenneth Branagh's re-envisioning of Agatha Christie's Murder on the Orient Express, as well as Daddy's Home 2, the sequel to the Will Ferrell/Mark Wahlberg surprise smash from two years ago, both put up a solid fight for that second place spot. When it came down to it though, it was Daddy's Home 2 that pulled out the win to the tune of a $30 million opening which is $8.7 million less than the first film did over the 2015 Christmas holiday, but given this sequel has the Thanksgiving holiday next week and then all of December this is a seemingly great start for the $100 million picture. And so, now we come to third place where the star-studded Murder on the Orient Express also opened solidly with $28.2 million on a production budget of $55 million. While both I and my co-host this week, Daniel Wingfield who was filling in for Charles, found the film to be pleasant enough with it ultimately being a nice option for moviegoers to have over the holidays more than anything I was curious as to what type of crowd would get out and see the film on the big screen. Per opening weekend numbers, Orient Express played to an audience that was 56% female vs. 44% male with 51% of the overall audience being 35 years of age or older. That said, it will be interesting to see how the film competes over the holiday next week as things begin to get crowded starting with the arrival of Justice League tomorrow and Disney/Pixar's Coco next week. 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!

First Teaser Trailer for DEADPOOL 2

In the lead up to this week's Justice League it was always promised there would be some kind of onslaught of new trailers vying to get in front of the latest super hero team-up and naturally, as a  result, we are beginning to get our first look at what blockbusters will be hitting theaters next summer. Granted, this is nothing compared to what we'll see in a months time when everyone studio and their cousin will be dropping trailers prior to The Last Jedi, but it's admittedly nice to spread things out a bit. Furthermore, what is also nice is the reminder that Deadpool has to play by no rules whatsoever. This is made clear by this first trailer for the sequel to Ryan Reynolds crown jewel to his career as rather than release a traditional teaser in the vein of what we get a solid minute and a half into this just over two minute trailer is instead a take on "The Joy of Painting" and that otherwise innocent show as hosted by the always gentle Bob Ross. That said, this works unbelievably well (maybe too well, even) in terms of how much I'm sold on more Deadpool despite not really having seen anything from the actual movie which is great, but doesn't excuse the fact I'm a sucker for trailers and now really want to see a trailer for this thing! That said, Reynolds continues to make the most of this character as I genuinely laughed out loud twice during his Ross impersonation and couldn't help but chuckle and shake my head throughout the rest of it. Of what we know of Deadpool 2, Reynolds returns as Wade Wilson alongside Josh Brolin as Cable, Zazie Beetz of Atlanta as Domino, Morena Baccarin as Vanessa, T.J. Miller as Weasel, Brianna Hildebrand as Negasonic Teenage Warhead, Leslie Uggams as Blind Al, Stefan Kapicic as Colossus, and Karan Soni as Dopinder. John Wick co-director and Atomic Blonde director David Leitch takes over for Tim Miller this time around, but both Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick have returned to pen the screenplay so count on more of the same, but you know...bigger and probably more irreverent than ever. Deadpool 2 also stars Eddie Marsan, Jack Kesy, Julian Dennison, and opens on June 1st, 2018.

DADDY'S HOME 2 Review

I will admit, and not necessarily begrudgingly, that I didn't mind 2015's Daddy's Home. One might even say I liked it to a certain extent. Did I understand why stars Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg were reuniting with something that was a more standard studio comedy rather than following up their 2010 Adam McKay film, The Other Guys, despite the fact it was likely because that film only made $170 million worldwide on a budget of $100 million? No, despite that evidence I still didn't and yet, somehow, Daddy's Home was something I laughed at consistently enough and had a warm enough time with that I was more than happy to recommend it to those looking for a light watch on a weekend afternoon. This was undoubtedly all it was ever meant to be. That was, until that second Ferrell/Wahlberg collaboration ended up going bonkers and making over $240 million worldwide on a production budget of only $69 million and thus is the reason we now have a Daddy's Home 2 that cost just a little more ($31 million more to be exact) with the addition of granddaddies Mel Gibson and John Lithgow present to up the antics of Ferrell's Brad and Wahlberg's Dusty as they try to co-dad in peace. Paramount was also keen to release this sequel prior to the holiday season as a whole thus kind of inadvertently kicking it off itself (Bad Moms Christmas obviously helping with this as well) as the studio looks to capitalize on their family-friendly PG-13 comedy playing through the Thanksgiving break and having collected all it needs prior to Star Wars coming in and claiming all the screens. That said, is this strategic approach going to work? Does Daddy's Home 2 offer the same comforts as its predecessor without succumbing to the stupidity that first film was always on the verge of flirting with or without becoming a carbon copy of that initial film? For the most part, sure. Daddy's Home 2 ups the antics in the way that sequels do without being maybe as consistently funny as it should be given the talent on hand. All things considered though, Daddy's Home 2 does further the story of the scenario set-up in the first film in natural and organic ways while adhering to the wacky tone that first film defiantly established. We are introduced to more family members in order to spice up the proceedings and from keeping it from becoming that total retread of the original while the dynamics of such relationships are explored and caveats of others revealed to add layers to characters we might have imagined we already knew everything about. That isn't to say writer/director Sean Anders (Sex Drive, Horrible Bosses 2) and writing partner John Morris (Hot Tub Time Machine, We're the Millers) have delved into the anxieties of blended families and come up with a film that analyzes the dynamics and struggles of such situations-this is very much of a movie world where no one has any problems except the ones in their personal life as created by their personal life with money being no object-but there is something to be said for Daddy's Home 2 as it doesn't simply rest on the laurels of its predecessor when it very easily could have.

MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS Review

You know those times when you think something is unnecessary, let's say for the sake of this format it's a movie, and yet despite those initial hesitations and questions of purpose you come to realize that it's not a complete waste of time, but rather that you actually like certain aspects of this fresh perspective it once seemed was uncalled for. I have never before read the 1934 Agatha Christie novel, Murder on the Orient Express, nor had I seen what is probably the most famous adaptation of this work in Sidney Lumet's 1974 film that starred Albert Finney as one of Christie's most famous and long-lived characters, Detective Hercule Poirot. That was, until earlier this week when I decided to catch-up with what was no doubt much of the reason 20th Century Fox decided it was indeed necessary to bring Christie's work back to the big screen with no lack of prestige in either its talent or production. In doing so, it became clear how much that '74 film serves as a perfect blueprint for the murder mystery venture and while I certainly doubt it was the first film of its kind it certainly is a fine example of how to make this type of movie in an effective, fun, and engaging manner. So, what does Sir Kenneth Branagh do when he gets his hands on such rich material and the opportunity to play as famous a character as Poirot? Well, not much really. Branagh keeps to the guidelines of the genre for the most part while the changes in characters and character arcs in this latest adaptation feel more like attempts to differentiate this version from Lumet's more than they do organic changes that came out of adapting Christie's story for a more modern audience. Sure, there are changes made to certain character's ethnicities and the color of certain character's skin, but beyond these factors serving to be acknowledged as they might have been in the context of 1934 there is no reason to have changed anything about the character other than for the sake of variety and equality, which is never a bad thing, of course, but the hope was that whatever changes Branagh and screenwriter Michael Green (Logan, Blade Runner 2049) made for this latest adaptation they might have been done to either improve upon the story or offer some facet previously unexplored. And yet, this version of Murder on the Orient Express is a safe if not efficient take in the mystery genre that relies on star power for character development and handsomely mounted production values to fill in for substance leaving the experience of Branagh's latest to be perfectly serviceable if not exactly fulfilling.

First Trailer for THE POST Starring Meryl Streep & Tom Hanks

While director Steven Spielberg began and finished production on next year's adaptation of Ready Player One before even considering directing The Post, both films are now in the can with 20th Century Fox releasing the first of two Spielberg films in the next five months before the end of the year in a limited run before expanding wide in January so that it qualifies for awards consideration. Spielberg has undoubtedly made a great many films in his career and I genuinely mean "great", but as of late the definitive filmmaker of many a generation has felt like he's been on something of an autopilot setting with the likes of both The BFG and Bridge of Spies being fine by Spielberg standards if not feeling slightly half-hearted and a little more than conventional. While I'm anxious to see what Spielberg does with the material provided him by the Ernest Cline novel I am also more than intrigued to see what Spielberg was able to do with the stellar cast he was able to assemble (and in such a short time, no less) that not only sees the filmmaker reuniting with Tom Hanks for the fifth time, but working with Meryl Streep for the first-so you can bet your ass this thing is at least getting one nomination come the 2018 Academy Awards. The Post tells the story of the United State’s first female newspaper publisher of The Washington Post, Kay Graham (Streep) and its hard-driving editor, Ben Bradlee (Hanks) as they fight to publish the Pentagon Papers, which proved the government had systematically lied about the scope of the Vietnam War. The film, which comes from Spotlight screenwriter Josh Singer and Liz Hannah (a producer on Hitchcock/Truffaut), looks like a perfect piece for such acting giants to collaborate with a master of the craft as this first look at the final product hints at a film with plenty of big moments and stirring speeches while at the same time conveying a timely and important message about the importance and value of the free, honest, and respectable press. Make no qualms that rushing to get this film into theaters was no just a question of potential accolades, but one of addressing the current climate of our country as well. The Post also stars Alison Brie, Sarah Paulson, Carrie Coon, David Cross, Bruce Greenwood, Tracy Letts, Bob Odenkirk, Jesse Plemons, Michael Stuhlberg, Zach Woods, Bradley Whitford, and opens in limited release on December 22nd, 2017 before going wide on January 12, 2018.

THOR: RAGNAROK Review

You know those ideas that are better in conception that they ever turn out to be in actuality? The ones where the pairing of two things, like Vince Vaughn and True Detective, sound fantastic, but when the reality of it comes into being it only serves to prove that some mediums and personalities just weren't meant to be meshed? Well, for the first twenty or so minutes of the third solo Thor film I thought that might be what was happening. The idea of taking darling indie comedy director Taika Waititi (What We Do in the Shadows, Hunt for the Wilderpeople) and pairing him with the massive machine that is Marvel to bring their most self-serious and most dour hero into the new phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) that might bridge the Shakespearian those ideas that almost felt too good to be true, you know, like Edgar Wright making a Marvel Studios film (which, it turned out, was in fact just that). It was an idea that seemed it might produce something truly singular for the long-standing MCU, but would it be too weird for Kevin Feige and the gang to really let slide? Honestly, I was waiting for the moment over the last two years when the news would break that Marvel and Waititi had to break over "creative differences" but to my pleasant surprise that day never came and today we sit here with Thor: Ragnarok, the best solo Thor movie that has been made to date, the first Thor movie that truly seems to utilize the full spectrum of the character and the world he inhabits and the never ending reaches of the cosmos he can inhabit while also upending many of the story conventions we've come to expect from our super hero epics. That is all, of course, after the rather nerve-wracking twenty or so minutes at the beginning of the film where it looked as if Waititi had bitten off more than he could chew in terms of managing a production the size of Ragnarok while also in the simple splicing together of jokes and story, of tender moments and CGI-filled natural environments where it was apparent that maybe the best choices had not been made. It's a rough start, but this only makes all that follows that much more assuring in its competency. Thor: Ragnarok is slight to be sure, but it is a ton of fun and serves up just enough freshness for the title character and his present situations that it's impossible not to throw your hands in the air and just enjoy the cheeky ride this take on the super hero genre offers.

Red Band Trailer for I, TONYA Starring Margot Robbie

One of the biggest stories to come out of TIFF 2017 was that of Craig "Fright Night" Gillespie's biopic I, Tonya starring Margot Robbie as the infamous Tonya Harding. It was a film that had almost zero buzz going into the festival, but shortly after the first screening it was clear I, Tonya was one to watch as it received rave reviews with much of the audience praising the films ability to balance both the comedy and tragedy of the situation. Given it's been almost twenty-five years since the events that turned figure skating into a full-on tabloid event and made Harding a household name for all the wrong reasons it will be interesting to see the varied audience reactions from those who are old enough to remember the actual events and those who weren't born yet who will go in not knowing the details of what went down in 1994 and only aware this is a movie that stars Margot Robbie and the Winter Soldier. For those who might not have been aware of who Tonya Harding is prior to this trailer or for those who need a refresher of the figure skating scandal this red band trailer for Gillespie's film certainly seems to serve as an enticing refresher as this looks as appropriately bonkers as one might hope while clearly having some semblance of a soul that will look past the chaos of the situation and into the circumstances of these characters that drove their choices and actions to the point of no return. All things taken into consideration, it seems pretty clear why I, Tonya received such a stunning response as everything about this trailer is intriguing and beyond fascinating to the point I can't wait to see it and only hope that the fairly new Neon production house that acquired the film out of Toronto is able to give this thing a wide release on the announced December 8th date. I, Tonya also stars Sebastian Stan, Allison Janney, Julianne Nicholson, Bobby Cannavale, Mckenna Grace, Caitlin Carver, and was written by Steven Rogers who is responsible for such nineties hits as Hope Floats and Stepmom.      

JIGSAW Review

In the seven years since the last Saw movie things haven’t necessarily changed per say, but horror has certainly entered a new realm of nostalgia for the fond clichés and structures of the slasher genre and kids who are smarter than any adult that happens to be in the movie with them. In the last two months alone we’ve had the likes of both IT and Happy Death Day not just pitch the revival, but more or less confirm what we’ve all suspected for a long time now: horror works in cycles and the eighties are most definitely back in fashion. Though this subgenre of teens being chased by an inescapable presence might spawn from some earlier form of horror (or maybe it really was just The Texas Chainsaw Massacre) this set-up that came to real prominence in the late seventies and on through to the eighties would die out only to see a resurgence in the late nineties with the knowing Scream and a slew of such copycats and homages before it again became taboo leaving horror to look for something new less than a decade later. Enter James Wan's Saw in 2004, a movie that would not only play on the current, but fading trend of M. Night Shyamalan's twist ending-type of psychological horror, but would introduce the world to a different kind of scary: the wince and squirm type of terror that would come to be labeled as torture porn. It worked and it spawned a Halloween tradition like none in recent memory where, for seven consecutive years, Lionsgate and Twisted Pictures were able to haul in audiences over the weekend prior to All Hallow's Eve and subject them to a killer who constructed devious traps for his victims that would cut, slash, drill, gut, and/or blown up unknown actors in sadistic but inventive ways while holding true to the agenda that he was making the world a better place by playing his "game". It was a weird time and there were plenty of studios that tried to jump on the bandwagon (everyone remember Hostel?), but even Saw couldn't last forever as five years later the handheld horror genre would rise with Paranormal Activity which would then spawn a new tradition before dying out itself only to give rise to the next phase of whatever horror phenomenon might come to pass. That phase is here, in force, in the form of nostalgia, but with the release of Jigsaw, seven years after what was claimed to be "The Final Chapter", the question was always going to be if Saw could still be relevant, but Jigsaw answers that question with an irrevocable "no".