Justice League Review

The DCEU has Shifted From Fascinating Critical Backfires to Bland, Vanilla Filmmaking with their First Super Friends Adventure.

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 Eighth 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.

New Trailer for A WRINKLE IN TIME

Walt Disney Pictures has released a new, full-length trailer for Selma director Ava DuVernay's adaptation of the Madeleine L’Engle's much beloved 1962 novel "A Wrinkle in Time". The story follows Meg Murry (Storm Reid), her brilliant brother Charles Wallace (Deric McCabe), and their friend Calvin (Levi Miller) on an unexpected journey into alternate dimensions on a mission to bring their father (Chris Pine) home. The film has certainly assembled a strong cast as Oprah Winfrey (It feels so strange having to type her full name), Mindy Kailing, and Reese Witherspoon are highlighted both in the trailer and new poster (see below) as three chimerical celestial beings who help Meg “wrinkle” time and space. Though somewhat difficult to get a grasp on the meanings and impressive nature of what DuVernay has brought to life here given I have no frame of reference it is after seeing this new trailer that I look even more forward to establishing one. There is almost nothing I love more about the movies than walking into a film that is so boldly a science fiction/fantasy that builds its own world unabashedly as it seems DuVernay has done here. With A Wrinkle in Time it seems DuVernay was given the keys to a kingdom she's always desired to explore and so, to be able to witness this opportunity come to fruition will no doubt be something rather remarkable when the film is released next Spring. Selma was the best film I saw in 2014 (though it technically received a wide 2015 release) and so, without even knowing what type of film DuVernay would be tackling next there was anticipation to see where the filmmaker's career would go and to see it not only go in a direction that is rather unexpected, but also in such a potentially special direction is all the more assuring. Visually, this thing looks wonderful and the cast all look as if they're really tuned in to not only delivering a final product that is a fun experience and beautiful to look at, but meaningful as well. I'm in the bag and officially cannot wait. Definitely one of my most anticipated films for 2018. A Wrinkle in Time also stars Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Mrs. Murry, Zach Galifianakis as The Happy Medium, André Holland as Principal Jenkins, as well as Bellamy Young, Rowan Blanchard, Will McCormack, and will open on March 17th, 2018.

THE STAR Review

In The Star, the latest production from Sony Pictures Animation (Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, Arthur Christmas), we are introduced to a sheep named Ruth (voiced by SNL's Aidy Bryant) who has essentially defected from her flock because of the titular star, an unusually bright heavenly body that showed up around the same time the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary in Nazareth to inform her she was highly favored and would be carrying and raising the son of God. Ruth can't help but to feel the appearance of this star is significant in a way she can't describe or pinpoint, but rather it is something she inherently feels she can't ignore. Ruth follows this feeling even when the rest of her flock continue to travel with their herd. This more or less makes Ruth the greatest embodiment of what true, genuine faith looks like in The Star and while this is a movie based around the nativity story in a way children might be able to more easily access it, this is the greatest virtue it has to offer. Admittedly, the idea of going against the grain, rebelling against the norm for the sake of something you truly believe in is something of a common theme in children's entertainment so as to promote individuality (this is the arc played by our main character, a donkey named Bo (Steven Yeun), actually), but there is a difference in doing something out of desire or drive for the satisfaction of your own life and being able to give of your own life for a purpose you believe is greater than yourself and that is what comes to be the most evident about Ruth in The Star. Ruth exemplifies a selflessness in service of this unwavering faith in something that struck her upon seeing that star start shining in the sky; a feeling she can't explain other than to describe the fact it stirs something inside of her. But faith has always been about not having the right answers, but rather a feeling. A hunch, really. It's a hunch that there is something bigger connecting it all and connecting us all together. For Ruth, and eventually Bo and several other animals that bear witness to the events that take place in The Star that feeling, that hunch, turns out to be God.

JUSTICE LEAGUE Review

I guess I should start out by saying that I am and always have been a fan of Zack Snyder. Without much effort I can recall sitting in the theater and experiencing Dawn of the Dead along with that moment when it clicked that this wasn't just a fun horror flick, but it was a good movie. I can remember seeing 300 several times if not for the admittedly thin story, but for the ways in which the director was pushing the boundaries of the visual medium. My heart almost dropped out of my chest upon first glimpsing that opening credits sequence to Watchmen in glorious IMAX and with Man of Steel it felt as if Superman had never been so epic; that the whole scope of his being had been presented, warts and all, even if most didn't agree that Superman should have warts. I loved Man of Steel and to a certain degree, I loved Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice as well. I'm not one to say that film is without its flaws, there is a convoluted nature to the proceedings that are unnecessary and it devolves into a CGI crapfest for the last forty minutes, but for me BvS was very much a personal film and one that was as grand in scale as it was deep with heart and rich with themes. Though the marks against it have their validity it is a film that arguably has more to say and more at stake than any other superhero film produced in the last seventeen years and certainly in the last nine or so since Marvel has streamlined the process. This brings us to Justice League, a movie that is hard for me to even call a Snyder film for, despite having the trademark look of the director during certain sequences, is undoubtedly the least Zack Snyder film to have ever been produced. It's sad and disheartening in the way that Justice League, or what Snyder began in 2013 and has been building through to up until recently has culminated with this, a vanilla action film with people dressed like characters we know and love, but to the benefit of a story that is paint by numbers if not the simplest example of such, a barrage of unfinished CGI and shortcuts, with no real stakes to be felt. Say what you will about those civilian casualties or the lack of awareness for them in previous films, but they added a weight to these proceedings that reinforced that in order for evil to be avenged evil first has to occur. Warner Bros. and Geoff Johns have gone out of their way to ensure Justice League took into consideration the complaints from previous endeavors and it does, resolving it to be the broadest and most generic theater-going experience one might have this year. The masses will no doubt love it.

First Trailer for RAMPAGE Starring Dwayne Johnson

The trailer releases continue in front this week's Justice League with the latest being that of Dwayne Johnson's next action adventure that this tie around is based on an actual video game and not just inspired by a movie based around a game. I'm of course talking about Juman...I mean Rampage, a movie based on the 1980s video game stars Johnson as a primatologist who shares a close bond with George, a remarkably intelligent silverback gorilla, until a rogue genetic experiment transforms the ape into a gigantic, raging monster. This isn't the end of the line though, as Johnson's character comes to discover George isn't the only giant raging monster who has been genetically altered as of late, but that in fact there are more of these predators on the loose including a giant wolf and crocodile. And so, this definitely looks like a movie. That's about as much as I can feel at the moment. Reuniting with director Brad Peyton (Journey 2, San Andreas) it sees as if Johnson is intent on keeping his most vocal demographics happy over the course of the next five months as not only will the sequel to Jumanji stand to put Johnson in good standing with the pre-teen to teenager crowds, but I imagine placing Rampage in a similar time slot to this year's Kong: Skull Island was no coincidence as Warner Bros. and New Line Cinema no doubt hope to once again capitalize on the non-traditional release dates outside the summer movie season for movies that look like traditional blockbusters. Of course, most know video game adaptation don't necessarily tend to do well, but this property is so dated at this point one has to wonder if the brand recognition element will even factor in. To be frank, I hadn't heard and certainly had never played the game that inspired this prior to seeing the trailer and I can kind of understand why as this looks more like an amalgamation of a whole bunch of movies I've seen before if not having done it better. I guess we'll see come next spring, but as for now let's just sit back and enjoy the fact Johnson has seemingly decided to stick with what feel like the safest bets a movie start can make in today's Hollywood while the fact this all feels very 2007 without admitting Johnson sees to be taking steps back in his career rather than moving forward. Only time will tell as this could be a ton of fun, but we shall see. Rampage also stars Naomie Harris, Malin Akerman, Jake Lacy, Joe Manganiello and Jeffrey Dean Morgan, P.J. Byrne, Marley Shelton, Breanne Hill, Jack Quaid, Matt Gerald, and opens on April 20th, 2018.

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.