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.

Initial Reaction: Video Review - THE EMOJI MOVIE

We are just not having the smoothest summer over here at Initial Reaction. First, the location that kindly allowed us to see movies in and shoot at post-screenings was bought by another theater chain and has since forced us to re-locate to another venue where we simply film as quick as we can in a more guerilla fashion just outside the theater. This only came about after the re-opening of our original location was pushed back into an indefinite status and has more or less left the future of our little review series up in the air as now, even when the location does open back up, it has yet to be determined if the management that once allowed us to do our thing will remain intact. While we have been hoping for some time to get an official word on when things might get back to normal we've been trying our best in the interim to keep up with the summer movie season. Of course, even though we saw, shot, and edited a review last week for Dunkirk we were unable to upload due to some technical difficulties and malfunctioning equipment. While we may be able to someday post our Dunkirk review I'm not going to be overly optimistic as it doesn't seem our editor/videographer is too confident in that ever happening. Still, we persist. And this week we persisted through what had to be my least anticipated movie of the year in The Emoji Movie. Based on the little emoticons we now use in our everyday conversations Sony Animation launched their star-studded kids movie over the weekend to the tune of an estimated $25 million. This was in line with the studio's modest expectations as it was projected The Emoji Movie would land somewhere between the $25 to $30 million mark and though it landed on the lower end of those predictions it is likely the film will still end its domestic run with around $60 to $70 million. The best news of the weekend though, was that this was not enough to beat Dunkirk in its second weekend of release as the Christopher Nolan film earned another $28 million for a domestic total thus far of $102 million with a current worldwide total of $234.1 million. Not too shabby. 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!

ATOMIC BLONDE Review

From director David Leitch, one half of the team that brought us the refreshing and uniquely packaged John Wick as well as the guy who is spearheading next year's Deadpool 2, comes Atomic Blonde-a female version of John Wick set in the eighties, with tons of eighties music, action, action, and starring Charlize Theron as the titular blonde who doesn't mind messing up her make-up as long as a cool soundtrack is laid over her walking away from her fights. Yeah, I'd love to see that movie. Who wouldn't, right? It would seem anyone who loves having a good time while sitting in an air conditioned auditorium eating food that's not going to help you look like the people you're watching on screen (at all) and staring up at an expansive screen would be thrilled by the combo of Theron, eighties, and action. I was certainly psyched. And then...please! No "and then"! And then it happened. Yes, it happened. After an equally ecstatic and moody introduction to this world in which we'd be existing for the next two hours the movie rapidly descended into a rather slow-moving, narrative heavy slog that would only intermittently bring us a sequence where Theron's Lorraine Broughton was allowed to let loose. But boy, when Leitch and screenwriter Kurt Johnstad (300) allow their leading lady to show off she certainly doesn't disappoint. This is also what is ultimately so frustrating about Atomic Blonde as it rather frequently gives us glimpses of what it could have been, what it was advertised to be, and what it seemingly wants to be as the action scenes are inspired, the backing tracks to Theron kicking ass are killer, and the film generally looks great-capturing the tone of late eighties Berlin by coating everything around our main character and her exploits in drab shades of gray to emphasize the burst of energy Broughton brings with her when she walks in a room. And yet, for one reason or another, Leitch decided to allow long stretches of his movie to become overly involved in Johnstad's plotting when what made both the original John Wick and its sequel so much fun was the simplicity of the plot and the building of an interesting world. Atomic Blonde doesn't build a world as much as it recreates one; Atomic Blonde doesn't keep the emphasis on the action, but wants audiences to take its twisting plot as seriously as Leitch no doubt takes his stunt work, but while Atomic Blonde feels carefully constructed and as precise in all aspects a director could hope it also never feels as fun or entertaining as it was meant to be.

THE EMOJI MOVIE Review

This may come as a shock to many of you, but The Emoji Movie is not good. In fact, it's really bad. Bad in the way that it doesn't even try much of the time. Bad in the way that it is intended to be a funny children's film with a message about championing individuality and being yourself, but even that tried and true formula falls flat. Did I say it was supposed to be funny? It's not funny. It tries, it has obvious attempts at humor, but it's not funny. Worse, it has a talented and typically hilarious group of people providing the voices for much of these humanoid expressions that exist in a world that doesn't make much sense in the first place. Let's start over as this would be the initial issue that only leads to more of these problems that spawn from the fact this is a movie based on emoji's. It would probably be big of me to say that this movie isn't bad simply because it is a movie based on emoji's, but it is. It represents everything wrong with the studio system from the perspective of attempting a cash grab without any measure of creativity or thought put into the actual work. There are no signs of life within this thing other than our protagonist going through the motions of feeling like an outcast, being brave enough to break out of his shell, and discover that it's okay to be different. That's all well and good, but you as well as your kids have seen this countless times before and The Emoji Movie brings nothing new to it with the fact it's emoji's going through these (e)motions only making it that much more grating. Worse even, it's beyond transparent that writer/director Tony Leondis (2008's terrible Igor as well as a few other animated shorts) and his two co-writers Eric Siegel (a TV veteran) and Mike White (Mike White!) could care less about the movie they are working on. No doubt receiving an assignment from head honcho's at Sony Animation that they needed something aimed at the kids after their one-two punch for teens and adults with Spider-Man: Homecoming and Baby Driver the studio latched on to current trends via The LEGO Movie and Wreck-it Ralph and demanded a movie based on those faces kids were using to communicate with on their phones. Leondis, Siegel, and White mix in a little Toy Story as well with hopes of no one noticing and yet The Emoji Movie is so distractingly bad that it doesn't become an issue of the movie being based around characters who are emoticons, but more the fact the whole thing never breaks through that barrier of convincing us why it's necessary.  

First Trailer for George Clooney's SUBURBICON Starring Matt Damon

After the first round of films slated to play at the Toronto International Film Festival were announced on Tuesday it quickly became more clear what the fall release schedule might look like as well as giving a clearer picture on who the awards contenders could potentially be come the end of the year. That said, George Clooney's latest directorial effort, Suburbicon, will be making bows at both TIFF and Venice, but what kind of role it will play in the eventual awards season is yet to be determined. Fashioned after a screenplay originally written by the Coen brothers Clooney, along with co-writer and producer Grant Heslov, apparently decided to take this in a darker direction rather than the more satiric one the Coens had in mind. The story of Suburbicon takes place in the late fifties and follows husband and father Gardner Lodge (Matt Damon) who must navigate his seemingly peaceful and idyllic suburban community’s dark underbelly of betrayal, deceit, and violence. In what is billed as a tale of, "very flawed people making very bad choices," the trailer certainly lives up to that description as Clooney's trademark gallows humor and classic aesthetic drip off every frame of this thing. I kind of adore the way in which Clooney consistently returns to this time period that has been so affected by nostalgia and those rose-tinted glasses that everything is now seen through this sheen of perfection and sparkling white teeth. Of course, the truth is, there was a lot wrong with America and the state of many a social issues at that time that were so swept under the rug it only seemed as if everyone was happy with the ways things are going. As we human history has learned time and time again when you bottle up something for too long the inevitable explosion to come will likely be worse than had we simply decided to address things head on. Suburbicon looks to be a tale of one of those moments in time when everything boiled over and the anger could no longer be contained. That said, it also looks like a really fun time at the movies and Damon looks to give a knock-out performance returning to a form he hasn't visited in some time. I'll certainly be making a point to see this at TIFF and hope it turns out to be as great as it has the potential to be. Suburbicon also stars Julianne Moore, Noah Jupe, Oscar Isaac, Glenn Fleshler, Megan Ferguson, Jack Conley, Steve Monroe, and opens on October 27th, 2017.

VALERIAN AND THE CITY OF A THOUSAND PLANETS Review

It's all about context, people. As an individual who thoroughly enjoys and kind of revels in the imagining of what's beyond our own solar system and, by default, creating something unique and fascinating out of that imagination I am always intrigued by something that looks like Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets. Intrigued being the key word here as there is always the potential for such an experiment or endeavor of such imagination to go off the rails in ways that it can't maintain or doesn't think through. With Valerian, director Luc Besson (The Fifth Element, Lucy) has adapted a French science fiction comic series that is no doubt close to his French heart, but while Valérian and Laureline (which would have seemingly been a better, simpler title) was first published in Pilote magazine in 1967 and went on to become one of the top five biggest selling Franco-Belgian comics titles for its publisher, Dargaud, one has to wonder if Besson's vision is what original creators Pierre Christin and Jean-Claude Mézières imagined their imaginations becoming some fifty years later. I've never read the source material and this may very well be in line with exactly the kind of style and tone Christin and Mézières utilized in their original stories, but one has to wonder about the purpose of style and tone then and the purpose of as much now. Is the more irreverent and frankly, rather goofy tone in response to other science-fiction adventures being more serious or was that how it was originally intended to be read? With something of a farcical quality to it? I'm sure someone on the internet will be more than happy to oblige my curiosity with a detailed answer, but the fact of the matter is it doesn't really matter what the original intent was or how well or not well Besson has adapted the material because we're here now-in a post-Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets world that just so happens to exist in the same world that is post-Star Wars, and post-Guardians of the Galaxy, and hell, even post-John Carter so what is it about Valerian that differentiates itself and does it differentiate for better or worse? For me, Valerian is a step in the wrong and a rather bizarre direction. Sure, it has some interesting visual ideas and some fun sequences, but with dialogue this bad, a rather hackneyed story that attempts to disguise itself by accentuating its bizarre elements, and a completely miscast Dane DeHaan I can't help but to feel Valerian might have been better off left on the page than having come alive only to find itself dead in the water so soon after.

DUNKIRK Review

Dunkirk is a horror movie. Make no mistake about it. You never see the villains. There is no physical trace of the German military anywhere in the film until one of the final frames. And yet, the presence of these antagonists looms over every scene. It is so inescapable in fact it is nearly suffocating. There is, in essence, no relief from the situation at hand and much like a horror movie more steeped in that genre's conventions you know only one thing is certain: bad things will happen and people will die. That doesn't mean one can look past the horror by not getting as accustomed with the characters, the people, experiencing these situations though, but rather Christopher Nolan has slyly and only crafted his characters to the extent that one largely puts themselves in the shoes of these individuals. As with any good scary movie there is an allure to the uncertainty that could not necessarily be labeled as enjoyable, but is engaging nonetheless and that essentially describes the emotions one will likely feel throughout the entirety of Dunkirk. From the opening, breathtaking scene in which one of our young protagonists flees the gunfire of unseen enemy forces to moments in which civilians on their personal boats navigate the rough seas as they cross the channel in hopes of nothing more than saving a few lives-Nolan ratchets up the tension and holds it as tight as he possibly can for an hour and forty-five minutes. Unlike most Nolan pictures, there is a brevity to Dunkirk that is key in sustaining the tension and keeping it at as intense a level as possible throughout, but like most Nolan films this is still very much an experience more than it is just another trip to the theater; it is immersive in a way that is difficult to put into words necessarily, but Dunkirk was always going to be something different as it sees one of the greatest filmmakers of our current generation crafting his version of a World War II film and to that extent this is a lean and intense piece of filmmaking that is rather exceptional. Lifting from the horror genre in terms of approach is only the beginning of what makes Dunkirk haunting, but much of what has to do with the accomplishment the film turns out to be is the way in which each of the elements Nolan uses to craft his movie congeal in such a natural way. Whether it be the structure that is used to differentiate between the timing and perspective of the tales from the air, land, and sea or the pounding score from longtime Nolan collaborator Hans Zimmer that more or less makes up for dialogue in the film to the face of Kenneth Branagh in general. Dunkirk is a work in which it would seem there was nothing easy about creating what we see on the big screen, but that comes together in such an effortless fashion it feels as if there was no other way in which the movie might have ultimately turned out. In short, it's a reality where it seems the filmmaker's ambition has genuinely been met.

SDCC: New Trailer for THOR: RAGNAROK Starring Chris Hemsworth

I can't say that I've necessarily ever been excited for one of the Thor movies. Curious, sure, but more than anything I've always been a bit concerned that Thor is where the Marvel universe would surely lose its vanilla footing and their time-tested formula would finally fail them. And to a certain extent this is true; I don't know that I could find anyone who might not agree Thor: The Dark World is one of the lesser if not the least of the Marvel properties released thus far (though Doctor Strange and Iron Man 2 puts up a good fight). Thor has seemingly always received the short end of the hammer when it comes to either scope or director, but Ragnarok is making up for both as not only does the subtitle hint at the time in Norse mythology when the cosmos are destroyed, but Marvel Studios and Kevin Feige have brought in filmmaker Taika Waititi (What We Do in the Shadows, Hunt for the Wilderpeople) who, given the previous teaser and now this fantastic trailer, has brought what seems to be a fresh start to the doomed Asgardian world. It may seem a little contradictory that the film dealing in the end of our titular characters world is also the one with the brightest color scheme and best sense of humor, but that's the main takeaway here. The trailer wastes no time in getting down to business and providing a quick synopsis of the story Ragnarok will offer as one of the first images we see is new villain Hela (Cate Blanchett) destroying the all powerful Mjölnir, Thor's hammer, along with his home world-forcing the Avenger across the universe into unknown worlds and to be imprisoned by unspecified beings that force him to participate in gladiator matches where he comes up against none other than Mark Ruffalo's Incredible Hulk. Needless to say, this things looks like it will easily take the cake for beingt he best Thor film we've ever seen as not only does the whole of the movie look good, but some of these visuals are genuinely stunning and I'm hoping that music is a sample from the score as it's not only unique, but pretty freakin' awesome. I was always slightly concerned we might get an Edgar Wright situation with Waititi, but it seems Marvel has learned a good lesson and I'm really excited and really hopeful that what we'll see on screen will be Waititi's unfiltered vision. Thor: Ragnarok also stars Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Jef Goldblum, Tessa Thompson, Anthony Hopkins, Jaimie Alexander, Karl Urban, Idris Elba, Ray Stevenson, Sam Neill, and opens on November 3, 2017.

SDCC: New Trailer for JUSTICE LEAGUE

With Patty Jenkins' Wonder Woman becoming the biggest movie of the summer Warner Bros. has put all of their effort into turning the tide on the rest of their heroes as they have debuted a lengthy new trailer for Justice League today at this year's San Diego Comic-Con. This trailer looks and feels awesome. What is there not to like? Ben Affleck's Batman is doing his thing, Gal Gadot's Wonder Woman is more or less his second in command while Ezra Miller's The Flash and Jason Momoa's Aquaman make it look like either of them could very easily steal the show. The only kind of question mark is Ray Fisher's Cyborg, but I like what we see of that mostly-CGI character here. What's interesting about this movie is that we have to keep in mind it was being planned and prepped for long before the backlash Dawn of Justice received and it is a film that has clearly had a new light shined on it due to those reactions. If you read any of the set visits from last summer you'll remember the fact WB and Snyder immediately went to work building a more positive narrative around the DCEU and for the most part, that was totally demolished by Suicide Squad. Ultimately, the film might have a spunkier tone due to quick re-writes, but it will still look like and be an epic Snyder film which is what these heroes and gods deserve. I don't mind owning up to the fact I'm a Snyder fan and that I hope his vision for this cinematic universe is seen through to the end even with the recent events of his personal life and the fact Joss Whedon has come in to steer Justice League to its opening day. Side note: really happy they still haven't showed us a glimpse of Henry Cavill's Superman despite the fact we know he will be back in some capacity for Justice League which hits theaters on November 17th, 2017. J.K. Simmons, Willem Dafoe, and Amber Heard also star.

SDCC: Debut Trailer for Steven Spielberg's READY PLAYER ONE

It seems as if Steven Spielberg has been working on an adaptation of Ernest Cline's 2011 novel, Ready Player One, since it was released, but now that work is turning into reward and reality as the first trailer/footage for Spielberg's big-budget science fiction and utopian/dystopian adaptation has arrived via Warner Bros and San Diego Comic-Con this weekend. Spielberg made his first appearance at Comic-Con since 2011 when he came with Peter Jackson to promote The Adventures of Tintin though this time around it was all about Spielberg and despite the obvious fact that he was once again welcomed with open arms he also made good on what the fans seemingly expected from the adaptation in that this first look at the footage certainly seems to have delivered the goods. If Comic-Con and Disney's D23 Expo have taught me anything this week though it is the fat that I have a lot of reading to do over the course of the next several months between both this and A Wrinkle in Time. Spielberg, along with cast members Tye Sheridan, Olivia Cooke, and T.J. Miller who were also in attendance alongside author Cline and screenwriter Zak Penn (The Incredible Hulk, X-Men: The Last Stand) presented the first footage from his highly anticipated sci-fi adaptation and as I've just stated the response seems to be overwhelmingly positive. As I personally had no expectations walking into the trailer or any real idea of what the story consisted of I was pleasantly surprised by the central idea the film and story seems to be centered around. At first, based simply on a plot description that told me that the creator of a massive multiplayer online game called Oasis dies and posthumously releases a video in which he challenges all Oasis users to find an Easter Egg that allows that player access to his fortune I thought it sounded very much like it would be akin to watching a video game play out on screen, but Spielberg has seemingly focused in on the mystery aspect of the story and the relevant themes of how each individual possesses their own particular version of reality via the ever-popular virtual reality. Spielberg also made heavy use of motion-capture for the film and that has made for what look to be some truly breathtaking visuals. That said, I'm also looking forward to getting a first look at The Papers, which is the director's real-life drama that’s currently in production with Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep and will actually be arriving in theaters first. Ready Player One also stars Hannah John-Kamen, Simon Pegg, Ben Mendelsohn, Mark Rylance, and opens on March 30th, 2018.

SDCC: First Trailer for JIGSAW

It has been seven years since a Saw movie graced our theater screens at Halloween, but that was as long as Lionsgate could hold out as they have now attempted to reboot the once prolific franchise some thirteen years after James Wan's original became a surprise hit. I remember anxiously looking forward to each installment especially after the second and third films turned out to be much better than I could have ever expected, but as the series went on and became more and more convoluted introducing more and more players to not just the game, but in extraneous subplots outside the victim/torture scenarios it became increasingly more difficult to both keep up and care. When it finally came down to it, the Saw franchise went out with a whimper in 2010 with what is no doubt its worst entry in The Final Chapter. It seems Lionsgate will have to now retract that title and find a new name for that film as the directors of Daybreakers and Predestination, brothers Michael and Peter Spierig, have come along to craft Jigsaw. Upon hearing that title one might think this is some kind of origin story and that some young, handsome actor has been cast to play a young John Kramer, but that would almost immediately lead to the thought that such a route would be pointless given we were taken through all of Kramer's backstory and motivations throughout the course of those six sequels from 2005-2010. So, what exactly were the Spierig brothers going to do to add a layer of freshness to this stale franchise? Well, that was left up to screenwriters Pete Goldfinger and Josh Stolberg AKA the guys who brought you such classics as Piranha 3D, Good Luck Chuck, and Sorority Row (2009). And so, what did these guys deliver? Apparently Jigsaw (Tobin Bell, returning) will follow a present day investigation as bodies begin turning up around Jigsaw's hometown, each of them having met a uniquely gruesome demise. As the investigation proceeds, evidence points to Kramer, but we all know Jigsaw has been dead for a while now so how is this possible? Will you be tuning in to see if the mystery is solved this Halloween? Hit the jump to check out the first trailer and let me know in the comments what you think of this latest attempt to reboot a once profitable franchise that hopes to capitalize on nostalgia from less than a decade ago. Jigsaw stars Bonnie Siu, Brittany Allen, Callum Keith Rennie, Hannah Emily Anderson, Laura Vandervoort, Mandela Van Peebles, Matt Passmore, Sonia Dhillon Tully, Tina Jung, and opens on October 27th, 2017.

SDCC: Green & Red-Band Trailers for KINGSMAN: THE GOLDEN CIRCLE

The second trailer for Kingsman: The Golden Circle is the first major release from 2017's edition of San Diego Comic-Con. This is the follow-up to the wildly successful Kingsman: The Secret Service from 2014 with director Matthew Vaughn returning for what will be his first sequel despite two other films he's directed having spawned follow-ups. So, what is it about the world of the Kingsman that made Vaughn want to return? It seems to be the fact there is so much more to explore here whereas Vaughn knew that what he had to say about the Kick-Ass and X-Men universes was more or less complete in his respective films. With Kingsman, which, like Kick-Ass, is based on a Mark Millar graphic novel, the filmmaker seemingly only scratched the surface of the world in which this secret service organization exists and the sequel is certainly expanding that world. Bringing in a host of big name newcomers. The Golden Circle sees the Kingsman's headquarters being destroyed and the world coming under siege forcing Taron Edgerton's Eggsy on a journey that leads him to the discovery of an allied spy organization in the US called the Statesman. This new trailer certainly shines more light on the Statesman giving Channing Tatum and Pedro Pascal a lot more to do this time around as well as getting a little more of Julianne Moore's villain who she's described as “Martha Stewart On Crack” . The trailer is also pretty relaxed about showing us Colin Firth's Harry Hart is alive and kicking, but I'm hoping there's more to this story that is divulged in the final cut. Vaughn and his crew have really seemed to up the ante by genuinely expanding the scope of the universe in which these characters exist so I'm hoping that given the director has finally decided to make a sequel that this turns out to be well worth the time and creativity invested. Kingsman: The Golden Circle also stars Halle Berry, Jeff Bridges, Sophie Cookson, Mark Strong, Michael Gambon, and opens on September 29th, 2017.

First Trailer for THE SHAPE OF WATER from Director Guillermo del Toro

Fox Searchlight has released the first trailer for Guillermo del Toro’s latest, The Shape of Water, and it certainly looks like a Guillermo del Toro film. I say that not to talk down about the project as I adore del Toro's visual style and his eye for detail, but I hope the filmmaker simply isn't treading familiar ground here. An original story with a screenplay by del Toro and Vanessa Taylor (Game of Thrones) the story follows a lonely, mute woman named Elisa (Sally Hawkins) who performs janitorial duties for a top-secret government laboratory. Within this mysterious facility a one-of-a-kind inhabitant is trapped and seemingly being tortured by something of a mad scientist/military hyprid as played by Michael Shannon. This inhabitant is not human, of course, because it is played by Doug Jones and is in a Guillermo del Toro picture, but he is more a humanoid creature who lives its life entirely underwater. Through what the lengthy trailer tells us we can discern that Elisa and the creature form something of bond with one another if not a close and intense relationship that sees each of them filling a large void in their life with the presence of the other. It is presented as a sweet, star-crossed love story of sorts within the context of a monster movie. It's something del Toro has done multiple times before with Pan's Labyrinth and Crimson Peak as he uses period pieces and real world events to inform a supernatural fairytale, but while the template may be worn I am certainly optimistic for what mysteries and adventures the director might ultimately bring to the table. And, of course, the film looks like a visual wonder and has an aura that each of del Toro's films possess reassuring us we're in a certain place and time to the extent we somewhat know what to expect, but don't all at the same time. The visionary filmmaker always tends to make movies that are fun to watch if not intriguing on a deeper level as well so despite the outline feeling somewhat familiar I hope there is enough unique stuff going on within this latest effort that will allow it to become its own entity. The Shape of Water also stars Octavia Spencer, Richard Jenkins, Michael Stuhlbarg, and opens December 8th, 2017.

THE BIG SICK Review

I love movies about stand-up comedians. There is something to the art form that I, personally, don’t believe I’d ever be able to successfully master and that is the factor of succeeding in such a fashion where it outwardly seems like one is struggling without actually struggling at all. Stand-up is very much an art that requires one to put their whole selves on the line and bank on the fact their personality is endearing enough for the majority of the audience to find appealing and latch onto. To do this one has to express a large amount of humility while simultaneously sparking a small amount of jealousy-jealousy in the way that the audience wishes they could channel and overcome their own life’s obstacles in the same way a given comedian seems to be doing by discussing them in front of a crowded room. One can’t succeed at the job too effortlessly or they lack credibility yet if the routine doesn’t come with a certain amount of effortlessness they seemingly lack the natural “it’ factor it takes to thrive; to stand out among a sea of other would-be storytellers. It’s a fine line one must walk in order to be able to pull off a certain kind of aura and it no doubt comes down to knowing one’s self better than others might ever care to get to know themselves i.e. exposing or opening one’s self up to their own shortcomings, faults, disadvantages-whatever it may be that people believe takes them down a few pegs from the pedestal they constantly hope to achieve as a person. By all accounts, Kumail Nanjiani is a fine stand-up comedian though I’d be lying if I said I’d listened to any of his sets prior to seeing his feature writing debut in The Big Sick (and no, I haven’t seen Silicon Valley either). This is brought up for the reason that those strengths Nanjiani plays toward as a stand-up have clearly crossed over to his screenwriting process as not only have he and his wife, Emily V. Gordon, crafted a heartfelt and rather eye-opening story around cultural differences in relationships, but they have done so by telling their story and to do this in an effective manner one certainly has to know themselves and be honest about themselves with themselves if that story is truly going to resonate. Needless to say, The Big Sick accomplishes as much rather well and, not coincidentally, does so with just the right amount of effortlessness so as to be both endearing to audiences in its quest and enviable to fellow artists in its craft.

On DVD & Blu-Ray: July 18, 2017

Initial Reaction: Video Review - WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES

Another weekend and another blockbuster, though it seems this week the returns weren't as large as some were hoping with the third (and presumably final) film in this new Planet of the Apes trilogy as 20th Century Fox's War for the Planet of the Apes delivered an estimated $56.5 million this weekend from 4,022 theaters. That's a little over a million more than Rise opened with back in 2011, but well below the $72.6 million Dawn delivered in its 2014 opening. Somewhat surprising is the fact War carries a budget of $20 million less than Dawn which is almost unheard of for a franchise in this day and time, but with what is still a $150 million price tag this latest film still cost over $50 million more than Rise's $93 million production budget. While I was personally surprised to hear that War wound up opening lower than Dawn it seemed Fox had a better gauge on things as they had their estimates sitting at around $50 million for the weekend. This is a strange trend given the reviews for this thing were stellar and the hype seemed to more than be on its side as support would seemingly grow for a trilogy the further along it went and the more successful it got with each installment-both critically and commercially-as this latest Ape's trilogy has. With this kind of debut though it would seems likely War will just barely recoup that production budget domestically with worldwide cumes making up marketing costs and profit. Speaking to international numbers, War brought in an estimated $46 million from 61 markets with the UK leading the way with an estimated $9.5 million. The other big story of the weekend was that of Spider-Man: Homecoming dropping 61% in its second weekend with an estimated $45.2 million as its domestic cume sits at over $208 million for its first ten days of release. Spider-Man also delivered another $72.3 million internationally, bringing its overseas total to $261 million for a worldwide tally just short of $470 million. All of that said, it will be interesting to see how things play out this weekend at the Box Office as three new major releases debut in theaters including Christopher Nolan's Dunkirk, Luc Besson's Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, and Malcolm D. Lee's Girls Trip. 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!

New Trailer for BLADE RUNNER 2049 Starring Ryan Gosling

Time for another round of quick confessions: I've never actually finished Ridley Scott's 1982 sci-fi epic that is Blade Runner. I will, of course, watch it again before seeing the sequel later this year, but the original is one of those I've always been told I need to watch and have started countless times, but never actually sat all the way through until the end. And so, with little knowledge of exactly what to expect from this movie other than a visually stunning experience (cinematographer Roger Deakins is once again responsible for what we see here) this second, more well-rounded look at director Denis Villeneuve's (Prisoners, Sicario, Arrival) thirty-year later sequel plays so well that general audiences should, at the very least, be intrigued while I imagine fans of the original will be going nuts over this one. If I'm to understand history correctly it would seem the original Blade Runner wasn't a runaway hit out of the gate critically or commercially, but more that it has over time become this cult classic that is now regarded as another masterwork by Ridley Scott. Still, despite my lack of any connection whatsoever to the previous film or even to Philip K. Dick's original source material, I'm a fan of all involved and have yet to dislike a film Villeneuve has made. Given the original was hailed for its production design and selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress in 1993 this sequel has a lot to live up to. Such honors mean the original film is considered "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" and so I can't imagine Villeneuve took such a task lightly. With Deakins' eye, Villeneuve's direction, and a screenplay from original Blade Runner scribe Hampton Fancher and Logan co-writer Michael Green I'm hoping the film delivers in all the ways fans have been waiting for while also initiating a few newcomers along the way. The first line-up of Toronto International Film Festival selections should be announced some time next week and I wouldn't be surprised if this isn't the opening night film given Villeneuve's last four films have all had runs at TIFF. Blade Runner 2049 stars Robin Wright, Barkhad Abdi, Dave Bautista, Ana de Armas, Sylvia Hoeks, Lennie James, Mackenzie Davis, Jared Leto, Ryan Gosling, Harrison Ford, and opens on October 6th, 2017.

First Trailer for Ava DuVernay's A WRINKLE IN TIME

It looks as if I need to track down a copy and get to reading on Madeleine L’Engle's 1962 novel A Wrinkle in Time as Walt Disney Pictures has released the first trailer for Selma director Ava DuVernay's adaptation of the much beloved classic via their D23 Expo. The story, which 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 home their father (Chris Pine). The film has certainly assembled a strong cast as Oprah Winfrey (It feels so strange having to type her last name), Mindy Kailing, and Reese Witherspoon as the 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 trailer that I look 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 and builds its own world from the ground up. With A Wrinkle in Time it looks as if DuVernay has been given the keys to a kingdom she's always desired to build and 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 fun to 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.

WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES Review

It's a weird feeling, rooting for the end or at least the defeat of mankind, but that is what this new trilogy of Planet of the Apes films has done. Each of the installments has done so well at tracking the progression of how these apes, namely Andy Serkis' mind-blowing creation that is Caesar, have become more human-like in their emotions as well as their mannerisms that it has become harder and harder to differentiate between the fact that what we're technically watching is a man versus beast tale. Of course, it's easy to throw those two labels around, but who actually deserves to have the title of beast fall upon them is debatable and especially in this final installment. In the inevitable War for the Planet of the Apes we find series screenwriters Mark Bomback and director Matt Reeves (Dawn of the Planet of the Apes) bringing the reinforcements that Gary Oldman's character made contact with in Dawn to the front lines and drawing the line in the proverbial sand. Reeves, who took over for Rupert Wyatt after the first installment, has crafted two distinct, but equally effective pieces of filmmaking that are as well-crafted as one could hope for. The film hits all the marks of a masterful technical achievement while at the same time deviating story expectations by not necessarily being generic summer popcorn entertainment, but are rather some heavy and heady pieces of cinema that have plenty of thoughts jumping around inside their heads as well as layers upon layers of allusions to the point each individual viewer could potentially see and receive something different when experiencing them. That said, both Dawn and now War never display that factor that pushes either of them over the edge of good, solid entertainment into something greater. It's a difficult feeling to describe given it is also a difficult thing to come up with anything negative to say or anything that specifically detracted from the experience of viewing the film, but speaking to the emotional state you reach after said experience War leaves you with a strong impression of being truly impressive, visually magnificent, but not nearly as intellectually or emotionally stimulated as it seemed you would be about midway through the movie. War for the Planet of the Apes makes us root for its primate protagonists, but it never lends the viewer the weight it seems to desire nor does it hit with enough of an impact that it will leave you contemplating all those ideas it has floating around inside its mind in your own for longer than a few hours. It is grand without necessarily being epic, distinctive, but not necessarily special.

Official Trailer for DARKEST HOUR Starring Gary Oldman

While I enjoy a good history lesson via the movies I've never looked to the movies for history lessons. That being said, Darkest Hour looks to be a damn fine and rather exciting way to spend two or so hours learning about historical events. There are a multitude of reasons to be excited for this Winston Churchill biopic chief among them being the fact it is a Chruchill biopic that focuses keenly on a single trial in the life of the great Prime Minister. Darkest Hour tells of how Churchill, only days after becoming Prime Minister, had to decide whether to navigate negotiations for a peace treaty with Nazi Germany or stand firm in the fight against them, but for the ideals, liberties, and freedoms of his nation. Sounds stirring, right? Add to this the fact the film is directed by Joe Wright who I have more or less adored since I unsuspectingly walked into Atonement a decade ago and came out absolutely floored. Whether it be in Hanna, Pride & Prejudice, or Anna Karenina, Wright always finds a way to make every department of his movie work together in ways you didn't even know directors could. While Wright is coming off what is more or less the only disappointment in his filmography with the underwhelming PAN, I am still very much looking forward to seeing what the director has done with this material as it looks to be very much, if not necessarily a return to form, but at least an effort more in his wheelhouse. Of course, the biggest draw here is that of an unrecognizable Gary Oldman giving what is no doubt a powerful performance. There have certainly been many iterations of Churchill on film (there is even another movie with the Prime Minister as the central figure coming out this year titled Churchill starring Brian Cox), but Oldman looks to have gone more than all in with this immersive performance as not only is the make-up impressive, but even in this clip that lasts just over two minutes the actor is able to deliver a stirring and compelling performance leaving me to wonder just how good he'll be here; maybe that run of delivering consistently fantastic performances with no Oscar to show for it will soon come to an end? Time will tell, but I can only hope the film turns out to be as good as all its factors promise it should be. Darkest Hour also stars Kristin Scott Thomas, Lily James, Stephen Dillane, Ronald Pickup, Ben Mendelsohn, and opens in select cities on November 22nd, 2017.

On DVD & Blu-Ray: July 11, 2017

THE BEGUILED Review

When it comes to Sofia Coppola I tend to be indifferent; both towards viewing her films and, when I do see them, in my response to them. Granted, I need to re-visit many of her works that were released and that I saw when I was likely too young to comprehend what they were aiming for or even discussing, but even as I've grown, expanded my pool of cinematic knowledge, and have been very much excited to see her newer releases a la The Bling Ring (which, admittedly, is likely her worst effort) I was disappointed by the lack of any real vision, any signature voice in her films. That changes with The Beguiled. The Beguiled has made me more anxious to go back and experience The Virgin Suicides and Lost in Translation again while prompting me to finally make an effort to see Marie Antoinette and Somewhere. The Beguiled is a game-changer of sorts because it brings Coppola onto a plane where she is not only indulging in the type of cinema she finds comfort in creating, but because it simultaneously provides a large entertainment factor. It's deliciously enjoyable in a way that feels fresh to this work specifically. Though I haven't the authority to compare and contrast Coppola's features with one another for, as I've mentioned, some I haven't seen at all and others I haven't seen in quite some time, but by a general gut feeling The Beguiled feels like the kind of jump-start Coppola's career needed to once again find inspiration. Everything about the film creates a sense of restraint around what is a boiling pot of truths and temptations just waiting to be acted upon. Coppola creates this potboiler effect by capturing the musky air of 1864 in visuals that elicit the season's soft southern sunlight and the lack of any bulbs whatsoever. Candlelight provides the majority of our illumination here and it is the glow, the aura of these yellow-tinged flames that underscore that air of courtesy that is all too often rendered just that by the bluntness with which our characters interact with one another. A gorgeous interpretation of the way in which people can read others based on their circumstance and furthermore, a fascinating study on the ways in which you sometimes can't-the true motivations of one or several never revealing themselves leaving any action taken to be forever contemplated. A million ideas about currently relevant social issues could make their way into one's interpretation of The Beguiled, but the truth of the matter is that it is very simply a smoldering tale of intuition and war.

Initial Reaction: Video Review - SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING

It has been nearly a month since we last published a new episode of Initial Reaction over on our YouTube channel due to the fact the theater that allows us to see movies and shoot inside it was bought out by AMC and has been closed for renovations since June 5th. We thought we might have a second home as we were able to see and review The Mummy and It Comes at Night at a different location the weekend of June 9th, but if we weren't going to be sticking around for the long haul that theater didn't want us shooting there either. And while we were initially told the renovations would take a month and that our home theater would be open and operational again this week that doesn't look to be the case. This coupled with the fact the latest movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe was opening this past week made us realize we would simply need to figure out an alternative plan until things (hopefully) get back to normal. And so, it is the first full weekend in July and what do we have upon us, but none other than the latest iteration of everyone's friendly, neighborhood super hero in Spider-Man: Homecoming. With actor Tom Holland taking over the reigns from Andrew Garfield and director Jon Watts (Cop Car) coming in to tell a more high school-focused origin story of how Peter Parker becomes the titular character Sony Pictures finally realized what they needed to do with their most valuable property and allowed Marvel to co-produce the project in order to allow one of Marvel's most popular heroes into the world where he truly belongs. It seems too that despite now having seen the release of six Spider-Man films over the course of the last fifteen years audiences were still clamoring for an MCU-set Spidey as Homecoming debuted to a massive $117 million domestically and over $250 million worldwide. To break it down a little further, the movie opened in 4,348 theaters yielding what currently stands as the second largest opening ever for a Spider-Man feature (not adjusted for inflation), just edging out Sam Raimi's 2002 original. This is also (not adjusting for inflation) the largest opening for a solo character's MCU introduction beating the $98.6 million the original Iron Man made in 2008. Homecoming's opening is also the third largest this year, finishing between Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2's $146.5 million and Wonder Woman's $103.2 million. Internationally, Spider-Man: Homecoming debuted in just over half of the overseas marketplace, delivering an estimated $140 million from 56 total markets for a global opening totaling $257 million. 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!

New Trailer for GEOSTORM Starring Gerard Butler

Geostorm looks terrible. I don't think anyone is going to necessarily debate that, but it's also good to know that with the newest trailer for the film the film itself also seems to know exactly what it is. After seeing the debut teaser it was pretty obvious this thing was going to be as close to actual dog shit as a movie could be, but upon further inspection i.e. this second official trailer for the film, it would seem the studio and creative team behind this offering are comfortable with basing their legacy on pure schlock so it could be more fun than initially expected. Coming to us via Warner Bros. and Skydance Productions as written by Dean Devlin (Independence Day, Stargate) and TV Writer Paul Guyot and as directed by Devlin as well as Danny Cannon (largely a TV director as well, but who is also responsible for 1995's Judge Dredd and 1998's I Still Know What You Did Last Summer) Geostorm will mark the first feature of Devlin's that will seemingly get a theatrical release despite the fact he also directed another feature intended to be released this year. With this disaster flick it seems the writer/director is working in his comfort zone though as not only has he penned both Independence Day screenplays (and apparently working on a third?), but also served as a producer on other Roland Emmerich productions including 1998's Godzilla. What it is about this genre that keeps him coming back is a mystery to someone such as myself that never got off on seeing cities wiped out or antagonists interacting on such broad scales, but here we are with Devlin seemingly taking notes from Emmerich's 2004 hit The Day After Tomorrow, but upping the ante by adding in the more ridiculous aspect of the world's governments coming together to create a network of satellites that surround the planet and are armed with geoengineering technologies designed to stave off the natural disasters. Of course, after successfully protecting earth for two years, something begins to go wrong and two estranged brothers are tasked with solving the program's malfunction before a world wide Geostorm engulfs the planet. Want to know the only thing that makes this synopsis better or worse depending on how you look at it? The couldn't be more different Gerard Butler and Jim Sturgess are the actors portraying those estranged brother. Geostorm also, somehow, stars the likes of Abbie Cornish, Ed Harris, Andy Garcia, and will likely be a solid hit when it opens on October 20th, 2017.

SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING Review

The thing that will forever allow Spider-Man: Homecoming to stand apart from the previous five iterations of the webslinger is that it is very much its own movie. Homecoming stands on its own and doesn't feel the need to repeat any of the beats from either Tobey Maguire or Andrew Garfield's stints as your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man. Rather, Homecoming picks up after the first Avengers film, carries us behind the scenes of Civil War, and onto Peter Parker's first solo adventure where, as a sophomore in high school, he's already been bit by the radioactive spider and learned of the abilities he's adapted since that fateful encounter. Homecoming is a movie that embraces Parker's youthfulness in its character dynamics and his eagerness to become a hero in its action scenes. Most vital though is that Homecoming isn't the origin story we've all come to know, but it is still a movie about how Peter Parker truly becomes Spider-Man. Somehow, with six credited screenwriters, it is the screenplay that stands to be one of the strongest factors in Homecoming's corner when it comes to setting itself apart from a character that has had two previous actors portray them and five previous incarnations on the big screen over the last fifteen years. Most startlingly is the fact this isn't a film based around a bad guy who is trying to take over the world or a villain who is trying to obtain a large sum of money in order to take over the world or even an antagonist who wants to steal a device that will help them take over the world, but rather this is, funnily enough, a movie that is born from the repercussions of Tony Stark's actions and one of the many enemies he's made in the process. As much as Sony and Marvel Studios have pushed the presence of Robert Downey Jr.'s Stark in the marketing for Spider-Man: Homecoming Downey Jr. is rarely on screen, but his influence is everywhere. From the opening frame of the film we are aware of the fact that this is a Spider-Man who exists well within the same world as Thor and Hulk. From what motivates our villain to act in the first place, what is born out of those motivations, and how it has come around time and time again for Stark and his peers to have to dispel them Spider-Man: Homecoming is a result of the Marvel Cinematic Universe in more ways than one which is, thankfully, very much to its benefit. Thus, what we have is a movie that is very fun, yet another enjoyable entry in what is more or less a TV series on the largest scale possible, and while Homecoming is as fun as one could hope and entertaining as all get out it never reaches a point of greatness that pushes it into the realm of exceptional.        

THE HOUSE Review

It's a sad day when one of your comedic icons who you grew up watching seemingly puts the nail in their proverbial comedy coffin, but that seems to be where we're at with Will Ferrel's career. Ferrell needs another Adam McKay collaboration and stat. After a rather stale streak post Anchorman 2 (which I loved) that has included Get Hard, Daddy's Home, and Zoolander 2 I was personally hoping for something of a turn in what would be Ferrell's first R-rated comedy since Get Hard which also happens to be the directorial debut of Andrew Jay Cohen who has written or co-written the screenplays for both Neighbors films as well as last summer's rather surprising Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates. Needless to say, Cohen and writing partner Brendan O'Brien have crafted a premise that is a perfect jumping off point for a Will Ferrell comedy, but it's pretty clear from the get-go that this is going to be one of those comedies that falls into the cheaper-feeling, amateur hour-type category. The House was never going to reach the intelligence levels of Ferrell's work with McKay, but it isn't able to even touch something like Blades of Glory which too felt cheap, no doubt, but was so consistently outrageous that it held itself up. Rather, The House is a movie that would have been a hotly-anticipated comedy five to eight years ago as it is the first time Ferrell has been paired with the ever-endearing Amy Poehler, but as things stand today there are seemingly no other marquee movie stars left besides *maybe* Kevin Hart, but even he has to be in the right vehicle for the box office to reward him. Ferrell is the last of a nearly dead breed and you can see the wear on his exterior as he sleepwalks his way through The House. It's not only a little sad to behold, but disappointing in that I've previously always looked forward to a Will Ferrell comedy and even if no one else in the world might understand why-I was still excited for The House in hopes that Cohen might offer a new voice in the comedy world, someone who was hungry to jump start what has felt like an unusually stale output from the likes of Ferrell and his normal co-horts over the past few years, but instead of reinvigorating anything Cohen has made a film that fits snuggly between the letdowns that have been Ferrell's last few films.