The Grinch Review

Illumination Delivers Another Perfectly Acceptable if not Necessarily Exceptional Animated Diversion in this Re-Telling of the Dr. Suess Classic.

Bohemian Rhapsody Review

This Queen biopic Fails to Transcend the Genre the Way its Subjects Transcended the Music Scene, but at Least the Music is Good.

Overlord Review

Overlord Combines the Terror of War with the Terror of a Zombie Apocalypse and Accomplishes Exactly what it Means To.

The Nutcraker and the Four Realms Review

An All-Star Cast Attempts to Usher The Nutcracker Story to a New Generation Via Disney Blockbuster, but Unfortunately the Results Fall Short of the Ambition.

A Star is Born Review

Bradley Cooper Writes, Directs, Sings, and Stars in this Fourth Incarnation of this Story Alongside Lady Gaga to Rapturous Results.

DESPICABLE ME 3 Review

The Despicable Me franchise has officially reached that point in its life where it doesn’t have any idea where to go next and so it begins digging into the main characters past to try and come up with characters to fill in roles they have yet to address. You’ve seen it before in countless films whether it be something along the lines of Austin Powers in Goldmember or even something as wacky as the Fast & Furious franchise that can’t help but to keep bringing people back and connecting them in unforeseen ways. With the inevitable Despicable Me 3 the folks over at Illumination animation have decided to take this route and approach their film as if Gru (again voiced by Steve Carell) fell into something of a Parent Trap situation, but the two never ended up going to summer camp together. Instead, it is after the passing of their father that his long-lost twin brother, Dru (also voiced by Steve Carell), contacts the newly married and newly heroic Gru in order to connect and maybe try to pull him back into his old ways of villainy. It’s a fine enough device, I guess, and it mostly works because Carell’s voice work is so amusing in how he slightly differentiates the two and then has to subsequently voice both Gru and Dru doing impressions of one another in what is arguably the most entertaining and genuinely funny scene in the movie. If any other scene in the film had a hint of the kinds of layers or even this kind of wacky creativity in the sense of trying to accomplish something due only to the fact it presents an interesting challenge then the film as a whole might have in fact been more interesting, but as it is Despicable Me 3 is more of the same, but busier. Busier in that it wants you and the children you’re presumably taking to the theater to think there is a ton of stuff happening on screen when in reality all you’re seeing is a collection of disparate scenes strung together by the standard objective of attempting to steal the biggest jewel in the world. That said, Despicable Me 3 doesn’t really have to be anything more than what it is as it is just funny enough and just consistently colorful enough to feel like the shiny new product it needs to be in order to please the masses who will spend their hard-earned money on it.

Official Trailer for JUMANJI: WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE Starring Dwayne Johnson

I, along with most of my generation, are massive fans of 1995's Jumanji that saw Robin Williams as a man who'd been trapped for decades in a board game and could only be saved by having new players finish the game. It was terrific, imaginative, and exactly the kind of movie that made being a kid in the 90's so much fun. Needless to say, when most of us heard Sony would be making a new Jumanji film after the passing of Williams in 2014 it seemed there could only be one way in which such a thing would turn out: as total garbage. Ahead of Sony's co-producing effort with Marvel next week on the latest Spider-Man film the studio has dropped our first look at the new Jumaji and to my great surprise the film, subtitled Welcome to the Jungle, looks like a blast (though I like the tone of the international trailer more). Updating the board game to that of a 90's-style video game is a nice touch and having four Breakfast Club-like archetypes stumble upon it in detention only to play it and be sucked into the game and transform into the avatars they chose is another. While Juamji: Welcome to the Jungle will no doubt profit from being yet another Dwayne Johnson vehicle, and he looks to be in fine comic form here, what is more exciting about this premise for me is being able to see Jack Black get a showy role that he could really elicit some big laughs from. Black has done well to understand the current phase of his career and with both this and Goosebumps he is kind of establishing himself as the guy that will be fondly remembered by the tweens and younger teens of the current generation for being the funny dude in all of their favorite movies-that is, if this turns out to be as good as it looks. Better even, when they get older, they can go back and discover even more of Black's rather impressive collection of work. Also of note is the inclusion of Kevin Hart who I am happy to see reunite with Johnson on any level after Central Intelligence and who I look forward to seeing mix it up with Black as well-there could certainly be some untapped comedic chemistry between the two especially given the characters they are playing here. The wild card of the bunch is Karen Gillan whose outfit was criticized after the first cast photo was released, but trust there is justification stated for it here. I greatly enjoyed Gillan's performance in Guardians Vol. 2 and hope she doesn't remain the wild card for much of this films runtime and is welcomed into the boys club with open arms. While I still can't get over how much better this looks than I initially imagined I'll hold out any official celebrations until after the movie opens this Christmas. Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle also stars Missi Pyle, Bobby Cannavale, Rhys Darby, Marc Evan Jackson, Nick Jonas, Alex Wolff, Madison Iseman, Ser'Darius Blain, Morgan Turner, and opens on December 20th, 2017.

Green & Red-Band Trailers for A BAD MOMS CHRISTMAS

Well, that was fast. Less than a year after the first film debuted in theaters we have trailers for a new Bad Moms movie and this time they're not just tackling everything moms have to take care of and look after in general, but they're specifically tackling the holiday season which, honestly, is totally fair game. Though I wasn't a fan of writer/directors Jon Lucas and Scott Moore's first film, you can read my review here, they have returned to write and direct this sequel as well. It would seem Lucas and Moore have a very limited range of topics they're interested in tackling as they wrote the original Hangover screenplay and then went on to pen and direct 2013's 21 & Over which was fine, but totally forgettable and that seems to be where this presumably never-ending line of Bad Moms movies will end-up. The casting of Mila Kunis, Kristen Bell, and (most importantly) Kathryn Hahn was one of the key highlights of that first film so having those three back and more in sync with one another's personalities this time around should bode well for the picture as does the fact Lucas and Moore have written in roles for their mothers who will be played by Christine Baranski, Cheryl Hines, and Susan Sarandon. Boy, between A Bad Moms Christmas and Daddy's Home 2 this holiday season will have no lack of Christmas-themed family comedies or work for aging movie stars. And while I'm in no way excited for what A Bad Moms Christmas likely has to offer it could have found its groove and this time around provide enough charm that it could win me over, but even with a red band trailer to show us all the bawdy jokes this thing has to offer I'm still not sold as the only time I laughed throughout either of these trailers was when Baranski showed up to deliver her deadpan lines. Presuming the majority of the comedy will come from the dynamic between our three leads dealing with the holiday visits of their mothers and extended families it would be nice if the majority of the laughs derive from these situations rather than only counting on otherwise innocent moms cussing and doing things that are supposed to be outrageous while that latest DJ hit drops in the background. All of that said, I am sad Christina Applegate's character doesn't seem to be back for the sequel. Oh, well. A Bad Moms Christmas also stars Jay Hernandez, Peter Gallagher, David Walton, Wanda Sykes, Emjay Anthony, Oona Laurence, Ariana Greenblatt, and opens on November 3rd, 2017.

BABY DRIVER Review

On the DVD for Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace there is an extended making-of feature titled "The Beginning" and in it George Lucas talked about his screenwriting process. At the tender age of twelve, when I first caught a glimpse of the film business via this featurette, I was not only enraptured in all that this world contained, but I was also struck by something the writer/director said concerning his action scenes. Lucas commented that rather than having a detailed description of the lightsaber battle he desired to create on screen it would simply say, “they fight,” on the page. This always struck me as odd considering the amount of planning that would seemingly have to go into such an involved sequence. It was too easy. I could understood Lucas’ idea of leaving the choreography and blocking to professionals who could better bring to life the style and aura of the battle he imagined, but to not even give an indication of what might have been in his brain always seemed a strange decision even if there would be countless meetings about it before the start of production. Even if it proved to be nothing more than a place to preserve those original ideas and remind himself, if no one else, of what inspired the sequence in the first place it would at least be that. This isn’t to say such an approach doesn’t work as I still believe that final lightsaber battle in The Phantom Menace to be the best the series has ever produced, but I bring this up to say that I’m pretty sure writer and director Edgar Wright didn’t simply insert, “they drive,” when he was penning the screenplay for his latest, Baby Driver. Rather, it would seem Wright, who is known for his ferocious energy and encouragement of innovative editing techniques, put on the paper every detail of what he wanted to happen in his action sequences as not only do they present a personality trait of the titular Baby as played by Ansel Elgort (The Fault in Our Stars), but they too are choreographed both in direction and motion. Motion meaning they not only hit the beats of an action sequence, but the beats of the soundtrack Wright has written the film to and integrated so intricately it would be impossible not to describe how exactly they went down if he wanted anyone else outside himself to understand his vision. This is all to say that Baby Driver is yet another unique and wholly original creative endeavor from a filmmaker who not only continues to push himself to come up with different ways to bring our similarly diverse world to the screen, but who captures an essence of cool in his work that we all aspire to have. Wright crafts the ideal out of situations that are not and Baby Driver is no exception to the standard he holds himself, and movies in general, to.

First Trailer for THE GREATEST SHOWMAN Starring Hugh Jackman

I'm convinced there isn't anything Hugh Jackman can't do and it seems he will only continue to prove that idea correct this fall as he once again stars in a musical, but this time it's an original musical and one based around the life and times of P.T. Barnum, who Jackman will be portraying. The founder of Barnum & Bailey Circus, P.T. Barnum has come to be regarded as a brilliant promoter and the man who transformed the nature of commercial entertainment in the 19th century. While it is always interesting to see biopics around historical figures the general public isn't overly familiar with The Greatest Showman boasts multiple reasons audiences should be eager to see it. Besides the fact it stars Jackman, one of our most endearing movie stars today, it will also feature original songs by Justin Paul and Benj Pasek who penned the lyrics for songs featured in last year's La La Land. Strangely enough, 20th Century Fox has also placed a rookie feature director at the helm of this rather expansive and impressive looking movie in Michael Gracey. Gracey has worked in the visual effects department on a few films you might have heard of, but what made Fox and friends think he was the prefect choice for a big, broad original musical with huge stars and what is no doubt a healthy budget I'm not sure. Written by Jenny Bicks (Sex and the City) and Bill Condon (Beauty & the Beast (2017)) the film is apparently, "inspired by the imagination of P.T. Barnum," which only seems to indicate that this won't be wholly faithful to history as it actually were. Of course, if you get your history from the movies then you probably get about as much as you deserve, but nonetheless I'm excited for a big, original, musical production set around a figure who was an inherently entertaining and "showbusiness"-minded personality. As for the trailer itself I'd be lying if I said it was exactly what I expected as I expected something more in line with a combination of The Prestige (as far as the mythological tone and mysterious sense of wonder it might possess) and Water for Elephants (grand cinematography of a forgotten heyday), but while the film still looks to be visually dazzling the tone of the trailer is more upbeat and more modern than those expectations led to me to hope it would be. The point is still that I'm enormously intrigued as to how this will turn out and can't wait to experience it on a big screen. The Greatest Showman also stars Zac Efron, Michelle Williams, Rebecca Ferguson, Zendaya, and opens on Christmas Day.

47 METERS DOWN Review

The best kinds of thrillers and horror films don’t have to rely on the big bad antagonist that is chasing our heroes around for actual scares, but rather they build up the tension and expel the terror through the situations they create given the circumstances no doubt involve a big bad killer or evil spirit chasing our heroes. Over the past two years we’ve received two very different, but startlingly effective shark movies that utilize this technique really well and fortunately 47 Meters Down is one of those with last summer’s The Shallows being the other. To go one step further, I’d say 47 Meters Down is the better of the two. At a lean eighty-nine minutes writer/director Johannes Roberts (The Other Side of the Door) doesn’t waste time setting things up, getting into the action, and most importantly-he doesn’t muffle that action or story with supplemental material. Instead, he executes his and the characters primary objective as successfully as one could hope in this day and age and he does so by keeping things simple. Within five minutes of the film beginning we know why our two lead characters, sisters Lisa (Mandy Moore) and Kate (Claire Holt), are vacationing together, we understand the dynamic that has existed between them in the past, and we quickly come to note their motivations for seeking out the thrills that inevitably lead them to their unfortunate predicament deep within the ocean. There is no messing around, there is hardly even any submerging us in the environment that is the coast of Spain because this isn’t the environment Roberts wants us to get comfortable with-in fact, he doesn’t want us to get comfortable at all. This brings us back around to the opening sentence which comes up only to say that the sharks are actually the least of Lisa and Kate’s worries here. Both Roberts and co-writer Ernest Riera are well-versed in utilizing the natural horrors that come with being plunged nearly 155 feet into the ocean waters and it is in such a scenario that 47 Meters Down continues to build upon the number of hurdles our characters must face if there is any chance of survival; only reminding us of the sharks when we think we can’t handle another thing hurting those chances of survival. In short, it’s kind of brilliant.

On DVD & Blu-Ray Today: June 27, 2017

CARS 3 Review

I could not have been less excited about the prospect of a third Cars movie. Most would say it is fair to classify this now trilogy as the weakest link in the ever-growing Pixar brand, but I don't bring this up to quickly cut down the third installment in this franchise that has borne nothing more than extended or unnecessary narratives, but rather to commend it for stepping up its game with what is likely the last chapter largely featuring Lightning McQueen if not the beginning of a new generation of Cars films as Cars 3 actively attempts to correct much of what has dragged these films down to sub-par Pixar levels from the beginning. In 2006, an idea such as a world filled with talking vehicles and a story that paid homage to the racing world, where it'd been, and where it might be going was an inspired enough one especially considering the combination of Disney and Pixar had yet to fail to meet if not surpass expectations. There seemed so much energy and so much enthusiasm for this first endeavor and while, having re-watched that first film recently, Cars is certainly a fine enough experience it didn't transcend the genre of animated movies in the way many of its predecessors had. Rather, Cars was more along the lines of an animated movie made strictly for the kiddos rather than one that had the ability to both appeal to the children in the crowd as well as emotionally resonate with their parents. That isn't to say it didn't try, but it is in the same kind of middle area where the purpose is present yet the payoff doesn't totally work that we find Cars 3. Many will agree Cars 2 was a total misstep and deviated from what at least made the first film charming and even if the Cars movies didn't make them buttloads of cash via merchandising it would seem Pixar might be intent on course correcting for the sake of artistic credibility as Cars 3 makes a genuine attempt to steer this franchise back into the arms of what inspired it in the first place-the good ole open road. While we are eleven years down the road from the first Cars in the future the dynamic will be rather jarring as the original Cars and Cars 3 more or less bookend the career of McQueen; chronicling both how he learned to be the racer he always aspired to be as well as helping him cope with the passing of time, the passing of the baton, and understanding there might be more to life than crossing the finish line first.

First Trailer for PITCH PERFECT 3 Starring Anna Kendrick

The first trailer for the third Pitch Perfect film has arrived and is interesting as it is really the first thing we've seen concerning the third Pitch Perfect film. Little has been discussed, especially story, when it comes to this trilogy capper in the unexpected a cappella franchise that began humbly enough in October of 2012 when director Jason Moore delivered a fast-paced, genuinely funny, and inventive teen comedy that capitalized on both the history of the genre itself and the idea you really can do anything...even if you're in an a cappella group. With the second installment Elizabeth Banks (who also co-stars in all three films) took over the director's chair and drove the film to an opening weekend that made more than the original film made in its entire theatrical run. The Pitch Perfect series is one that was born on the back of good word of mouth and a timely home video release where teenage and college-aged kids caught the effortlessly fun film over their Christmas break and replayed it again and again in their dorm and living rooms. The point being-it became fun and familiar to hang out with this group of girls and their friends and frenemies and thus any subsequent adventures where audiences could again get some time with them would be default hits-especially if the same irreverent tone was kept intact. With this third film, Step Up All In director Trish Sie has taken the helm with series writer Kay Cannon (New Girl, 30 Rock) still handling script duty. Personally, I'm very much looking forward to what this third installment has to offer as there is always a very distinct shift in tone between the first sequel and the second meaning it can no longer be as much of the same as audiences hoped part two would hit. With third films we like to see real progression in our characters as well as their story come full circle so that we get some closure and promise as to where these individuals may go from here as it is likely that, even if we get more Pitch Perfect movies, many of the original players won't be involved or in the same capacity from this point on. That said, this initial trailer looks really fun and I'm happy to see the entire gang come back for at least one more round of a cappella antics. Pitch Perfect 3 stars Anna Kendrick, Hailee Steinfeld, Brittany Snow, Anna Camp, Rebel Wilson, Alexis Knapp, Ruby Rose, Hana Mae Lee, Kelley Jakle, Shelley Regner, Ester Dean, John Lithgow, and opens on December 22, 2017.

TRANSFORMERS: THE LAST KNIGHT Review

Twenty minutes into the fifth Michael Bay directed Transformers film, this one subtitled The Last Knight, Optimus Prime comes face to face with a robot God named Quintessa (as voiced by Gemma Chan) if that gives one any indication as to how insane these movies have truly become. No? Not good enough? How about the fact Anthony Hopkins' character (or the fact Anthony Hopkins is in a Transformers movie) has a Transformer butler that the film acknowledges is more or less a rip-off of C-3PO? Not far enough? Let's go ahead and make the robot butler a sociopath of sorts, shall we? Point being, there is no seeming cohesion between any parts of the many layers that make up The Last Knight as well as most of its predecessors. Personally, I walk into a new Transformers film with the expectation of being bombarded by sound, image, and story and am more or less pleased if I can walk away saying I understood the main point of the plot and was, at the very least, entertained. Of course, without such expectations one could view these things as complete messes, as mind-numbing fun, or fall somewhere in between where it's easy to recognize the idiocy of the picture, but acknowledge the merit in big, colorful, summer blockbuster filmmaking. Many will make jokes, but Bay is one of the more unique directors working today by virtue of the fact he consistently operates on such a scale that it's almost inconceivable he could craft something that wasn't inherently bloated; every aspect of his process and his product has to be big and this latest endeavor is no different. While Age of Extinction felt like something of a breaking point in terms of the director going so far into his wheelhouse that he couldn't possibly possess any more tricks we are still here three years later and Bay, along with returning cast members Mark Wahlberg, Josh Duhamel, John Turturro, and Stanley Tucci, have somehow managed to at least match if not best their previous Bayhem effort. The Last Knight is scattered, plot-heavy, overly complicated, and generally non-sensical to the point of genuine hilarity, but there is still a craft to it all and the fact Bay can somehow orchestrate these massive characters, set-pieces, and story into something resembling a movie while at the same time maintaining a visual aesthetic that is bar none one of the best you'll see on the big screen today is truly impressive and deserves at least a little bit of credit.

First Trailer for THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE Starring Miles Teller

The first trailer for Universal Pictures and DreamWorks'  film adaptation of journalist David Finkel's non-fiction book Thank You For Your Service has premiered and it seems Miles Teller will be gunning for some awards contention this year. Whether that will pan out or not remains to be seen, but judging by this first clip from the film Teller is certainly pulling out all the stops to bring a fair amount of gravitas to this story of the modern soldier and how Post Traumatic Stress Disorder affects American servicemen and women returning home from war. Adapted for the screen by American Sniper screenwriter Jason Hall who will also be making his directorial debut with the project, Thank You For Your Service looks to serve as a more introspective look at the repercussions of war than even Hall's previous writing effort did. Sniper was certainly notable for the attention Chris Kyle's name attracted, but it always seemed to want to ignore the fact that something could actually be wrong with its leading character and that as strong as soldiers are-they should be able to cope with any issues they have upon returning to a normal life. This is obviously not the case and isn't the truth for many men and women who come home after experiencing the traumas of the battlefield. Thank You For Your Service looks to dig deep into the psyches of these individuals and how they come to view themselves after being forced to do what are no doubt actions that forever singe themselves into one's memory. The vibe the this first trailer gives off as well is key as the soundtrack featuring Rag'n'Bone Man's "Human" relays a very distinct attitude as well as the lyrics working to underscore the state of mind these characters inhabit as the images Hall has captured paired with the music make for a really effective piece of marketing that not only makes me want to see what the full feature offers, but has me hoping I learn more about why PTSD is so prevelant and how it might be combated. Thank You For Your Service also stars Haley Bennett, Amy Schumer, Joe Cole, Beulah Koale, Scott Haze, Keisha Castle-Hughes, Brad Beyer, Omar J. Dorsey, Jayson Warner Smith, and opens on October 27th, 2017.

On DVD & Blu-Ray: June 20, 2017

ALL EYEZ ON ME Review

Since his death over twenty years ago Tupac Shakur has become something of a prophet in his legacy; a deity of the rap world in which the mythology only continues to grow-building a perception and persona of a man who held some secret as to how our society operated and why when, and this is the most valuable thing the new biopic All Eyez on Me offers, it seems the alarmingly young Shakur was still very much trying to figure out who he was never mind the bigger questions the culture he was raised in implied for his future and the future state of our world. All of that to say director Benny Boom (Next Day Air) and his team of three rather novice screenwriters had a lot to overcome in order to deliver a final product that was not only satisfying, but relevant in terms of adding something substantial to the conversation around the life and times of Shakur. There has been a barrage of material released since the artist's untimely death in September of 1996, but All Eyez on Me would mark the first narrative feature and arguably the one with the best odds of reaching the widest audience. With this weight and presumed pressure of responsibility on his shoulders Boom has delivered what is more or less a by the numbers biopic for what was very clearly an individual who couldn't have operated by the numbers if he wanted to. Shakur was a man who seemingly had a constant conflict of conscience going on within him-attempting to balance the obligation he felt he had as an orator for the black community while simultaneously looking to solve such societal issues in the moment which often times resulted in compulsive acts of violence and/or spouting things from his mouth that he didn't consider before saying them in front of a rolling camera. And while All Eyez on Me and its look-alike lead in newcomer Demetrius Shipp Jr. does in fact attempt to delve into this clash of consciousness Shakur constantly dealt with it's never able to transcend the tropes of the music biography enough to allow the audience to understand what cultivated and motivated these feelings. Sure, we see flashbacks galore and are privy to relationships in Shakur's life many might not be aware of that inherently give new light to this persona that has been crafted by the media and his constituent's since his death, but none of it to such an extent we feel we're inside the mind of Tupac thus restricting us from feeling like we've seen the real story of the man's life.

First Trailer for DADDY'S HOME 2 Starring Will Ferrell & Mark Wahlberg

Paramount has timing on its side this week as not only is this weekend Father's Day, but they also have the release of Transformers: The Last Knight which coincidentally stars Mark Wahlberg as well as Warner Bros. The House starring Will Ferrell opening next week and the week after-making this a perfect time to treat audiences to their first look at Daddy's Home 2. Two years ago Paramount released the original Daddy's Home to rather bad reviews, but it proved to be the gift that kept on giving as the film ended up with a worldwide gross of over $240 million on a budget of only $69 million. Needless to say, the studio was quick to get all involved, including Wahlberg, Ferrell, and director Sean Anders (Sex Drive, That's My Boy, Horrible Bosses 2) back on board for another go-around. If you've heard anything about this unnecessary, but totally understandable sequel you probably know that the hook this time involves meeting Dusty and Brad's respective fathers who will be played by none other than John Lithgow and Mel Gibson. It is this new dynamic that the trailer plays up and is all the better for it. I actually didn't mind the original film as much as I'd anticipated, but that was very likely due to the fact I went in with almost no expectations. The trailers made the film look as generic as a comedy could which was a shame as I loved and still love The Other GuysThe Other Guys is, simply put, one of the more underrated comedies of the last decade and while I'd hoped more than just the chemistry between Wahlberg and Ferrell might cross over into Daddy's Home it was always going to be missing that key creative drive in Adam McKay. There is hope in the fact Anders is again directing as each of his credits prior to these films were willing to go the distance for whatever joke needed to be made and while this will most definitely be PG-13, hopefully they can find some way to breathe fresh life into what is now a recycled premise. I'm hoping the effortless quality of comedy the lead duo possesses comes through as Ferrell and Wahlberg are almost as good together as Ferrell and John C. Reilly and there should be more than enough to work with between them and all the bigger stuff studio sequels inherently come with. Daddy's Home 2 also stars Linda Cardellini, John Cena, Alessandra Ambrosio and opens on November 10, 2017.

Initial Reaction: Video Review - IT COMES AT NIGHT

I talked at length yesterday about the box office results for both Wonder Woman as well as The Mummy, but this week on Initial Reaction we also talked about a smaller film called It Comes at Night. This micro-budgeted horror flick from A24 comes from director Trey Edward Shults who the studio gave its first multi-picture deal to. After acquiring Shults' debut feature, Krisha, A24 struck a deal to produce and distribute his second feature, It Comes at Night. It Comes at Night was released in 2,533 theaters this past weekend (the studio's widest release to date besting The Witch's 2,046 last February), but this one didn't land as well as the studio might have hoped it seems. Falling just outside the top five It Comes at Night, which was generally well-liked by critics, was given a rather terrible "D" CinemaScore by opening day audiences. Expectations going into the film's opening weekend were over the $10 million mark, but with only a $5.9 million final cume come Sunday it seems It Comes at Night will fade quickly from public view leaving Shults in a position to step up his game, at least commerically, in his second feature for the studio. Granted, It Comes at Night's production budget was reportedly under $5 million so this is in no way a loss for the studio, but I can imagine A24 was hoping for some Blumhouse style numbers a la Split. All of that taken into consideration, I obviously urge you to check out Initial Reaction's review of this divisive film as it will be our last video review for some time. We will be back, hopefully by Spider-Man: Homecoming at the latest, but the theater we typically see our films in and shoot our reviews in is undergoing a change in ownership and thus some renovations. We've been told to only expect the theater to be shut down completely for a few weeks and that they hope to be back up and running by the beginning of July, but we shall see. As for now, be sure to follow the official Initial Reaction YouTube channel as well as on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter for the latest updates! Your views and support are much appreciated!

First Trailer for FLATLINERS Re-Make

Another confession when it comes to another new trailer for a re-make of an old movie: I've never seen the original. In this particular instance, we're talking about the 1990 Joel Schumacher film, Flatliners, that starred Kevin Bacon, Kiefer Sutherland, and Julia Roberts. Honestly, I'd heard of the film before, but never enough to make me feel the need to seek it out. This seems both a positive and negative for the re-make as this clearly wasn't a property Sony Pictures imagined might profit from brand recognition, but rather could be a genuine effort on the part of director Niels Arden Oplev (the original Girl With the Dragon Tattoo) and writer Ben Ripley (Source Code) to "re-imagine" the material and bring it into the modern day. To this effect, it seems this new film won't necessarily be as much of a re-make (all the characters will technically be new characters) as it will be a progression of how far science has come since that first film was released. This is an interesting enough approach and the team involved, including a strong cast that is headed by Ellen Page, seems credible enough to pull something off that might end up being legitimately engaging. By the same virtue of public perception though, this new Flatliners could just as well be written off as unnecessary and disappear from cinemas come September without so much as a peep. It will undoubtedly be one worth watching as it seems reviews and pre-release buzz will ultimately decide the fate of this one-especially if it ends up being any good and people react to it in ways that provide positive word of mouth. On a final note, Sony wasn't completely ignorant to the nostalgia factor that is fueling so many Hollywood decisions at the moment and have enlisted Sutherland for a role in this new film, but have confirmed he will not be reprising his role as Nelson from the original. Flatliners also stars Nina Dobrev, Kiersey Clemons, Diego Luna, James Norton, and opens on September 29th, 2017.

On DVD & Blu-Ray: June 13, 2017

Initial Reaction: Video Review - THE MUMMY

There was no denying the power of Wonder Woman this weekend as the second full weekend for the latest DC Extended Universe picture saw the smallest percentage drop from week one to week two since the original Spider-Man in 2002. While everyone who was a fan of what Warner Bros. was doing with their DC Comics characters was hoping Wonder Woman might be their saving grace I don't know that any of them (and I include myself among that group) could have anticipated the phenomenon this thing is quickly becoming. Not only in terms of quality and box office returns, but in the narrative and buzz that has come to surround the film. It feels like something of a cultural event; people who don't typically talk about or go to the movies are talking about Wonder Woman and it just so happens that kind of free press is reflected in the numbers. In its second weekend (after posting staggeringly good numbers throughout the week as well) Wonder Woman brought in another $57 million bringing its domestic cume to more than $205 million after just ten days in release. Meaning that aforementioned low percentage drop between weekends comes in around the 45% mark. To further put things in perspective, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice dropped 69% in its second weekend, with Suicide Squad at 67% and Man of Steel coming the closest with 65%. Of course, while Wonder Woman easily won the weekend much of the talk going into the weekend concerned just how hard Tom Cruise's The Mummy was going to flop. Coming in a distant second this "re-boot" of sorts that is also intended to kick-start Universal's own cinematic universe in what is now being labeled the "Dark Universe" came up short out of the gate, at least domestically, as the film scored only $32.2 million which is even less than what the third, much maligned entry in the Brendan Fraser Mummy trilogy opened with when it made $40.4 million on its opening weekend in August of 2008. That said, the real story for The Mummy, Universal, and its potential cinematic universe lies across the pond as the film opened internationally with $141.8 million to become Cruise's largest worldwide opening ever. Debuting in sixty-three international markets, including China where it brought in an estimated $52.2 million, The Mummy also made $17.8m in South Korea, $7.6m in Russia, $5.1m in Mexico, and $3.6m in Brazil for a $174 million global launch with openings still left in France and Japan. 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 Trailer for Marvel's BLACK PANTHER

Playing a little catch up today as the first teaser for Marvel's latest, Black Panther, dropped on Friday during game four of the NBA Finals, but unfortunately I haven't been able to really sit down and watch the clip until today. That said, this is obviously a pretty big deal as not only is this our first look at what is on Marvel's slate moving into 2018, but it's also our first glimpse at what is one of the few African-American led comic book movies. In the wake of Wonder Woman last weekend this is a big deal and only shows the continuing 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 this Black Panther movie wasn't going to be promising given Marvel's Cinematic Universe 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 and that too was 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's successes. As for the trailer itself, Coogler and his team certainly seem to have found a look and tone they wanted to work in for despite some of the visual effects shots still feeling incomplete the world in which they're taking us to is fully rendered. It's interesting to see Andy Serkis' Klaw (first introduced in Age of Ultron) and Martin Freeman's Everett Ross (also introduced in Civil War) open the trailer and discuss the mysteries of Wakanda as it only gives the audience a stronger desire to see this place for themselves. Black Panther also stars Lupita Nyong'o, Danai Gurira, Daniel Kaluuya, Angela Bassett, Forest Whitaker, Florence Kasumba, John Kani, Winston Duke, Sterling K. Brown, Phylicia Rashad, and opens on February 16th, 2018.

IT COMES AT NIGHT Review

In my 2015 review of Krisha, Trey Edwards Shults feature writing and directing debut, I opened by saying the film, “has a lot of interesting ideas going for it, but one begins to doubt its ability to bring them all together as it races towards its final minutes and seriously begs the question of what exactly everything is building to.” In many ways (and maybe unsurprisingly), one could say the same thing about his follow-up, It Comes at Night. Strangely enough, the dynamics and questions pondered in that initial feature prove to be more interesting and compelling than what feels like an extension of many of those same themes in this new film. In short, It Comes at Night serves up the leftovers from Krisha in that the ideas here still have to deal with family, the potential toxicity of family, and dealing with the inherent connections we’re all born into while questioning how loyal we must remain when things get worse for wear. Of course, all of this is conveyed in what is meant to be taken as a post-apocalyptic setting where tensions are already high and relationships already strained. Things are heightened; this isn’t simply a familial drama about an argument that arises between two opposing members, but more It Comes at Night writes a metaphor for how to handle the small, awkward moments we all encounter when we’re a part of something bigger. It’s a film about figuring out which fights are worth picking and which are worth leaving alone with the outlier of such risks being the fact one of these calls could come back to bite you. This is all really fertile ground to dig into especially when taken through the aforementioned guise of the horror genre, but unfortunately Shults still doesn’t seem to have as strong a grasp on communicating his themes as he does in crafting them. The kid is already a master of atmosphere as some of his film’s strongest qualities come from Brian McOmber’s intense score and Drew Daniels haunting cinematography as they capture the otherwise quaint scenario Shults has set-up, but where It Comes at Night succeeds in building atmosphere and placing conversation-starters on the tip of its audiences' tongues it fails to actually engage that audience in the moment. To this effect, It Comes at Night is one of those films that is fascinating to contemplate and discuss moments after experiencing it, but in the midst of that experience it couldn’t feel more tedious.

THE MUMMY Review

One might imagine that Alex Kurtzman, a Hollywood writer often relied upon for studio mandated filmmaking, would have learned a thing or two from watching those he’s written for in the past. Be it J.J. Abrams, Marc Webb, or hell, even Michael Bay. Any one of these aforementioned directors might have shown glimpses of how to stylize, tap into emotion, or leave a unique impression on a certain popular property, but none of this seems to have left an impression on Kurtzman. One might imagine it would, but it seems that if you did you might have more of an imagination than Kurtzman period as his big blockbuster directorial debut is nothing short of a generic action adventure. To his credit, Kurtzman did write and direct the 2012 dramedy People Like Us which wasn’t terrible, but that you probably also don’t remember. Point being, while Universal is now attempting to get in on the cinematic world building game Marvel pioneered and Warner Bros. is following suit on they might have tried to do so by kicking off such an attempt with someone who displayed the opposite qualities of their endeavor meaning a leader rather than listener and obedient follower Kurtzman seems to be. While Kurtzman is at the helm of this mammoth monster movie the direction is not the weakest aspect of this drab blockbuster; that would be the screenplay. As one of six credited writers on the project, Kurtzman and Jenny Lumet (Rachel Getting Married) seemingly outlined the story before Universal brought in the likes of Jon Spaihts (Prometheus, Passengers) to juice up the script, but they weren’t done yet, no, as Dylan Kussman (an actor of bit parts in lots of big movies who seems to have made the right friends) along with Christopher McQuarrie (The Usual Suspect, Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation) and David Koepp AKA the OG Alex Kurtzman were brought in to add to the screenplay and presumably help map out where exactly this “Dark Universe” might lead. Well, if The Mummy is in fact how Universal is going to kick-off this supposed series of films (it was originally intended to be 2014’s Dracula Untold, but we all see how that turned out) audiences would be led to believe this is going to be a tone-deaf and unoriginal endeavor leading me to believe there might not be much of an audience at all.

Official Trailer for Disney & Pixar's COCO

Disney and Pixar have released the second, official trailer for what what will be their second feature to be released this year. Not waiting for Cars 3 to hit theaters next week, the studio is getting a slight jump on their trilogy capper and while I'm not remotely excited to see a third Cars movie these Coco trailers continue to intrigue. Coco is the one to look forward to this year though, as it offers the first original story from the studio since the one-two punch of Inside Out and The Good Dinosaur in 2015. With this official trailer we are again treated to a clip of the film's protagonist, a young boy named Miguel (voice of  Anthony Gonzalez), who we are told is the first living person to ever visit the Land of the Dead. All of this is beautifully rendered in warm colors with tinges of infectious melodies due to Miguel's ancestry and their seeming affinity for music, but the weight of the film seems to still very much rest on what themes the narrative might actually be grappling with. Knowing only that Coco, like 2014's The Book of Life, would in one way or another incorporate Día de Muertos or the Mexican holiday known as the Day of the Dead it might be easy to assume what ideas around death and remembrance that Disney and Pixar might utilize, but I still wasn't sure what to expect. Hinting at ideas of legacy and influence and the amalgamation of what such words can lead to all conveyed through this specific cultural event that honors as much it seems Coco certainly has the potential to be one of those Pixar features that seems to be reaching for more and with the already impressive visuals highlighted here as well as the sense of humor the film will carry I can't wait to see the journey on which the film takes us. Coco also features the voice talents of Gael García Bernal, Benjamin Bratt, Renée Victor, Sofía Espinosa, Luis Valdez, Lombardo Boyar, Edward James Olmos, Gabriel Iglesias, Cheech Marin, Blanca Araceli,and opens on November 22nd, 2017.

Initial Reaction: Video Review - WONDER WOMAN

The internet was abuzz yesterday as it was reported Wonder Woman had made a record-setting $100.5 million over its three day opening weekend, but as the final numbers come in today it seems Wonder Woman has actually made more than was estimated and has in fact delivered a $103.1 million opening weekend. This exceeded expectations as Warner Bros. was said to be anticipating an opening in the $65-75 million range, but that always seemed rather conservative as the film was opening in 4,150 theaters and forecasting was largely predicting a number closer to $90 million for the three-day. Of course, the film opening higher than both Warner Bros. and the Sunday estimates indicated is good news for everyone as Wonder Woman director Patty Jenkins now holds the record for the largest opening for a female-directed feature. While this is all well and good and could certainly do things for industry expectations as far as diversity in the workplace is concerned what is the even better news for Warner Bros. is that, after a series of critically maligned efforts in their DC connected universe, they finally have a genuine winner on their hands. In other words, critics and audiences alike are enjoying their movie! To see how this effects box office numbers is to break down the three day weekend Wonder Woman just had which equals out to a $38.185 million Friday (this includes the $11m it earned in Thursday preview screenings), a $35 million Saturday, and $29 million on Sunday. With drops this small from Friday to Saturday and especially from Saturday to Sunday it's clear to see that good word of mouth and the mountains of positive press the film is receiving is translating into more and more interest from the general public. Elsewhere in the news, DreamWorks Animation's Captain Underpants delivered slightly less than expected with an estimated $23.5 million opening, but given the film is budgeted right (a reported $38 million) this should do well over the this week and next before Cars 3 hits on the sixteenth. 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 Trailer for AMERICAN MADE Starring Tom Cruise

I'm still a fan of Tom Cruise, the movie star, and I think many people are they just tend to be weary of the guy for reasons having to do with things we don't really know much about and/or have probably been warped in the public eye, but be he as weird as Scientology has made him out to be or not...the guy is still a movie star; one of our last genuine movie stars and he's damn good at what he does. While I always enjoy seeing Cruise perform insane stunts and place himself at the helm of Mission: Impossible movies while also lending his name and commitment level to would-be franchises such as this weekend's The Mummy, I miss Tom Cruise: dramatic actor. It has been five years since we've seen Cruise in something other than a balls to the wall actioner (Rock of Ages) and almost a decade since we've seen him in something inherently dramatic (Valkyrie). And so, it is with much happiness and a renewed sense of optimism that I look forward to the next Tom Cruise drama that, while it does seem to include a fair amount of action, is more a grounded crime thriller than anything else. Re-teaming with Edge of Tomorrow director Doug Liman (The Bourne Identity, Mr. & Mrs. Smith) American Made comes from screenwriter Gary Spinelli and is based on the true story of a pilot who landed a job for the CIA and as a drug runner in the south during the 1980's. The first clip from the film makes this look like a really fascinating time at the movies and I can't tell if that's just because I'm excited to see Cruise play something of a more traditional everyman or if it's genuinely because the movie looks good. The final product will hopefully prove to be solid thanks to a little bit of both, but we'll see. Fans of Top Gun will surely get a little kick of nostalgia before the so-called sequel actually goes into production given this clip features Cruise flying around and getting into trouble, but more than this the film looks to be in very much the same vein as The Wolf of Wall Street (the song in the beginning of the trailer is very reminiscent of "Black Skinhead"), Lord of War, or even last years War Dogs and given I thoroughly enjoyed each of those I'm excited to see what Liman and Cruise bring to the table. Also, Domhnall Gleeson looks fantastic in this. American Made also stars Sarah Wright, E. Roger Mitchell, Jesse Plemons, Lola Kirke, Alejandro Edda, Benito Martinez, Caleb Landry Jones, Jayma Mays, and opens on September 29th, 2017.

CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS: THE FIRST EPIC MOVIE Review

It was nice, for once, to walk into a movie having not watched a single trailer, having not read the source material, and literally having zero to no expectation for what was about to be delivered. This type of movie-going experience doesn't happen often in the age of the twenty-four hour news cycle, especially when large portions of that cycle are dedicated to updating fans on every inch of a new movie's production status. The truth of the matter though, was that I personally had zero interest in Captain Underpants, his books, or his potential movies and chalked this initial feature up to being nothing more than a relatively cheap and easy cash grab to capitalize on the popular book series by Dav Pilkey. Still, even this kind of "brand recognition" mentality seemed like it wouldn't serve DreamWorks Animation in the way they might hope as the last I'd heard of the Captain Underpants books was when my younger brother discovered them in elementary school as they gained popularity...in the late nineties. There have been some rather large gaps in the publishing of Captain Underpants novels, but apparently Pilkey is still going strong today and given it's been almost two years since the last Captain Underpants adventure I'm assuming fans might have even been excited for the prospect of a new Underpants adventure not to mention the first one they might experience on the big screen. And so, Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie is here and while, again, I couldn't have been more unaware of what a movie that had "underpants" in the title could possibly deliver it actually is a rather inspired and genuinely funny piece of entertainment. Granted, this is all very silly and rather outlandish while capitalizing on the fact it knows it's capitalizing on potty humor, but nonetheless the titular character and his creators, elementary school students George (Kevin Hart) and Harold (Thomas Middleditch), burst through scene after scene with tireless enthusiasm and a joy for life and all its possibilities that's downright contagious. Though I have no idea how faithful this film is to a certain novel or the series in general I have to imagine that what is captured on screen is very close to the spirit of Pilkey's series as the most vital ingredient in Captain Underpants is that of getting the audience to view these adventures through the minds of George and Harold and it is in this regard that I came to not only appreciate what Captain Underpants was mining, but kind of adore it for doing so.

WONDER WOMAN Review

Wonder Woman is quality popcorn entertainment with ambition. It is not the exception to the rule and it certainly has its issues, namely with pacing and its generic and derivative climactic battle, but much of this is easy to forgive due to that ambition; due to the fact it is earnestly trying to be more than it has to be. It has been a rather long time coming, but the day is finally here that we have a big screen, feature-length version of Diana Prince’s origin story. Director Patty Jenkins (Monster) has crafted a magnificently mounted piece of filmmaking that feels as grand and majestic as a Wonder Woman movie should. It also doesn’t hurt that the casting of our titular heroine couldn’t feel more right and kudos to Zack Snyder for trusting his instincts on such a decision despite the initial backlash the casting and costume of Gal Gadot received. As Prince, Gadot is endearing from the moment we see her desire to uphold the legacy of her people. This initial gracing comes as she trains for an ever-impending battle that threatens to destroy her hidden island of Themyscira and the fellow Amazons that live there with her. Though unfamiliar with the comic books or even the seventies TV show starring Lynda Carter I’ve always assigned Wonder Woman to be this kind of beacon of purity in the super hero universe. Besides this though, I wasn’t sure what, as a hero, she stood for or what her motivations were or what her history entailed that might have made her so driven to defend the world from the bad guys. Turns out, Wonder Woman is more or less a God the same way Hercules was. Maybe even more so; is Hippolyta (played here by Connie Nielsen) more God-like than Alcmene? I have to imagine so. While Jenkins’ Wonder Woman provides enough of the backstory and origin details to answer many questions that might pop up throughout what is most impressive about this latest DC Extended Universe film is that it keeps to the virtues of that character throughout in the way people fondly remember. Jenkins and scribe Allan Heinberg have actively kept Wonder Woman’s optimism and slight naivety intact while placing her in a world and time that is tangible and rather terrible, not to mention under-represented on film. Such is a testament to how well Wonder Woman finds the right avenues to take in order to balance the many ambitions it hopes to accomplish. Even if some of these aspirations don’t quite reach the heights as successfully as was hoped for it is that balance that is key as there is so much to admire and enjoy about Wonder Woman that it not only remains memorable, but affecting.

First Trailer for MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS

I must admit, I’ve never seen Sidney Lumet’s 1974 adaptation of Agatha Christie’s novel starring Albert Finney, Lauren Bacall, Ingrid Bergman, Sean Connery, and Jacqueline Bisset, but I am rather interested in correcting that-especially now that we have seen a glimpse of what Kenneth Branagh’s re-make or re-imagining is going to look like. The cast is certainly just as impressive and make no mistake, this first trailer for the film is very much a teaser despite its two minute runtime. Much of the teaser’s time is dedicated to showing the cadre of big names that do indeed star in the film while the remainder is black screens and neon blue text that looks awfully similar to Bates Motel. Maybe Branagh, or rather 20th Century Fox’s marketing department, thought it wise to hue closely to a similar murder/mystery tone of a rather popular and more recent TV show, but all the mystery and implied deviousness is quickly undone as soon as Branagh introduces himself in the role of Hercule Poirot with what I can only assume is an Imagine Dragons song blasting the background. It is shockingly jarring in how much is shifts what it seemed the intended tone was to something of a comic nature. While it’s always nice to have a balanced sense of humor I don’t think Branagh and the gang were going for the kind of mood this trailer leaves us with. It’s an odd choice, but hopefully (and likely) has no bearing on the actual final product we’ll see this winter. Strange music choice aside, this is still a hell of a cast and though we only get a line of dialogue or so from each of them here I can’t wait to see how they play off of one another and if Branagh can pull of something that is both new and inventive while respecting previous incarnations that are obviously well-regarded. Branagh stars in and directs while Murder on the Orient Express also features Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Penélope Cruz, Daisy Ridley, Josh Gad, Willem Dafoe, Judi Dench, Tom Bateman, Leslie Odom Jr., Lucy Boynton, Olivia Colman, Derek Jacobi, and opens November 10th, 2017.