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.

BRIGSBY BEAR Review

At first, Brigsby Bear may seem like the definition of what has come to be expected from a Sundance movie meaning films that often break out at the Park City, Utah film festival are those that include quirky characters doing things only quirky people such as themselves have time for in light of real-world tragedies and/or challenging times. Think Me and Earl and the Dying Girl or Napoleon Dynamite. By such expectations Brigsby Bear would most definitely check every box necessary to qualify for Sundance's quirkiest of offerings, but like those aforementioned films these movies still tend to succeed in their objectives because beneath the seeming pretense of being bound and determined to be as weird and peculiar as possible there is genuine heart that exists. These pictures ultimately come from a place of real emotion, of real life experiences, and have seemingly only been materialized into a full-on motion picture due to the fact the writer or writers were able to tap into a fun premise in which they could work through their feelings and thoughts. With Brigsby Bear, Saturday Night Live's Kyle Mooney and co-writer Kevin Costello seem to be coping with the fact they've actually made it to the point they can make a living by utilizing their creativity. Coming from San Diego and attending the University of Southern California it likely always felt within the realm of possibility that Mooney might be able to reach such heights, but it also seems likely he was constantly surrounded by those also attempting to make it many of which no doubt failed to achieve such ambitions. It's a double edged sword I'm sure whereas, for someone such as myself who lived in rural Arkansas for the majority of my life, achieving such success or even coming across such opportunities always felt like a pipe dream. For Mooney though, Brigsby Bear more or less cements this feeling that he's finally being let it on the inside of the joke rather than being left out in the cold or rather, that others are finally beginning to get hip to the brand of humor and personality that Mooney has possessed for some time. Either way you slice it, Mooney and Costello along with director Dave McCary (an SNL crew member) succeed in capturing the spirit of this abstract idea that is creativity and relaying not only what it means to the creator, but to those affected by it.

First Trailer for MARK FELT: THE MAN WHO BROUGHT DOWN THE WHITE HOUSE

As the Toronto International Film Festival draws closer and closer the more trailers we'll likely receive for some of the higher profile titles that will be making their debut there. Today brings us the first glimpse of director Peter Landesman's  (Concussion, Parkland) take on the story of FBI agent Mark Felt, who would become “Deep Throat”, the anonymous whistleblower who exposed the Watergate scandal in a series of discussions with Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein. As the trailer shows us, the film chronicles Felt’s discovery of the Watergate scandal and subsequent decision to leak information to the Post as President Richard Nixon’s White House administration began to try and tamper with the FBI’s investigation. While this may have been presumed to be something entirely different to those unaware of who Mark Felt was prior to watching the trailer (a la a Liam Neeson version of White House Down/Olympus has Fallen) I am a sucker for straightforward historical dramas such as this seems to be and would have definitely made time to see this were I still going to be able to attend TIFF this year. While that was the plan up until recently, I unfortunately won't be able to make the trip to the festival this year, but fortunately won't have to wait too much longer to find out if The Man Who Brought Down the White House is as intriguing as this first-look trailer makes it out to be. What concerns me about the film is that it was originally announced back in 2006, didn't start shooting until May of last year, and is just now getting a release date nearly a year and a half after the fact. Whether this has anything to do with the quality of the project overall remains to be seen, but the credentials are certainly in the films favor as Liam Neeson stars in the titular role along with Diane Lane, Tony Goldwyn, Josh Lucas, Michael C. Hall, Maika Monroe, Kate Walsh, and Tom Sizemore in supporting roles. Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House opens nationwide on September 29th, 2017.

On DVD & Blu-Ray: August 29, 2017

LEAP! Review

There is nothing particularly memorable about Leap! an animated film being released by The Weinstein Co. that was originally titled Ballerina when it premiered in France and the United Kingdom last winter. That said, there is nothing particularly offensive about it either. Rather, Leap! is a sincere attempt to re-visit and reiterate age old lessons to the younger generations that continue to be born and require reassurance that they too can accomplish their dreams with hard work and dedication. That is essentially what Leap! comes to be as it sells the underdog story of a young girl who overcomes obstacles such as being an orphan in order to accomplish her dreams of becoming a ballet dancer. The film earns some credibility and points for uniqueness by taking the chance of placing itself in a period setting for no other reason than writer/directors Éric Summer and Éric Warinwhich wanted to which would seem to inherently be a reason for youngsters to disengage, but alas the movie chugs along not missing a beat despite the fact parents who have seen any movie ever will be able to guess the beats Leap! will seemingly follow. This never becomes an issue though, as the film sets its audience up to accept this then revels in the setting allowing it to influence the different approaches the movie is able to illustrate in regards to our two protagonists key passions. Félicie (Elle Fanning) with her dancing and Victor (Dane DeHaan) who is an inventor with an affinity for devices that might help us to one day fly. All of this endears us to the two of them immediately as not only are they orphaned and living in the midst of the late-1880's, but despite as much they have hopes and dreams and are bound to find a way out of their situation no matter how difficult Luteau (Mel Brooks), the groundskeeper at the orphanage, fights to keep them in line. The groundwork is laid early for what the viewer can expect as far as narrative goes as well as for how Summer and Warinwhich will handle the craft of this type of storytelling that relies on such unsurprising, but well-intentioned clichés. What Leap! has in its back pocket is that none of these obvious or typically telling factors corrupt the ever-glowing optimism that it holds and delivers through to its predictable, but appropriately cheery conclusion.

Initial Reaction: Video Review - LOGAN LUCKY

While last weekend saw the release of both The Hitman's Bodyguard and Logan Lucky as well as the continued roll out of buzzy indie Wind River this weekend saw the release of nothing major sans the faith based All Saints starring John Corbett as well as Leap! a co-production between Canadian and French companies that was titled Ballerina when it was released in France and the United Kingdom late last year. Though we should probably have a review of Hitman's Bodyguard going up at some point as it just won its second weekend in a row there is no avoiding the fact this is a slow time on the movie release calendar. And so, rather than review a film we both that was rather mediocre (Bodyguard) Charles and I discussed the latest from Steven Soderbergh in our latest review, Logan Lucky. This is the film that brought Soderbergh out of retirement, back into the genre of fun heist action/comedies and assembled a cast that includes the likes of Channing Tatum, Adam Driver, Daniel Craig, Riley Keough, Katherine Waterston, Seth MacFarlane, Hilary Swank, and Sebastian Stan, Not too shabby. And yet, Logan Lucky only scored a measly $7.6 million debut weekend which was then followed this weekend by another $4.4 million which accounts for a drop of 42.5% and a current domestic total of $15 million after ten days in release. With a production budget of around $29 million this isn't great news for the Bleeker Street release, but worse is the fact that it deserves so much more. As I say in the video review below,  Logan Lucky is one of those films one can re-visit time and time again simply because the characters in the movie are so much fun to hang out with. In short, more people need to hang out with these people-especially considering there are no major releases this weekend outside of The Weinstein Co. opening Tulip Fever in some 600 theaters and Sony re-releasing Steven Spielberg's Close Encounters of the Third Kind into around 700 theaters. There is a lot of good, smaller stuff at the movies right now, people! I'll be seeing Brigsby Bear, Good Time, and Ingrid Goes West this week alone as they've just all recently opened in my city and if none of those sound appealing-go see Logan Lucky! 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!

WIND RIVER Review

Writer/director Taylor Sheridan (Sicario, Hell or High Water) likes his symbolism. He both begins and ends his directorial debut, Wind River, with a fair amount of it. The opening of his film, which takes place in Wyoming on the Wind River Indian Reservation sees a literal wolf circling a herd of sheep. Wind River ends with a simple image of two fathers sitting in the background while an empty swing set comes into focus in the foreground, the two empty seats swaying in the light winter wind. How Sheridan's film gets from a rather generic piece of symbolism in the form of a common saying to one that is potentially layered with meaning the viewer can attribute to it due to the journey they've just witnessed is what makes Sheridan's use of this tool so effective. Obviously, Sheridan is a gifted writer who has a knack for building atmosphere and tone and integrating them into the natural environments in which he places his stories, but what had yet to be gleaned was how much of such satisfactory works came from the writer himself and how much was elicited and interpreted from his screenplays via renowned directors like Denis Villeneuve and David Mackenzie. With Wind River, Sheridan lets it be known that he possesses more than capable hands when it comes to bringing his written word to life and, more importantly, conveying the themes and ideas through these visuals that he clearly had an interest in discussing when penning the screenplay. While Wind River doesn't necessarily possess a unique structure or revelatory plot-in fact, it's a rather simple murder/mystery movie-what it does possess is an assuredness of how it confidently wants to tell this story and a clear idea of the aspects of this true story that it wants to highlight so as be both affecting and insightful while still remaining a familiar conceit. The familiarity of the structure and approach is perfectly balanced by that of the desolate-seeming landscape though, which is only emphasized further by the environment no doubt feeling foreign to any viewer that doesn't reside in Wyoming themselves. It's chilling. There are flat fields that seem to go on forever covered in snow with a dead silence that drenches it all which inadvertently seems to inform the locals of the bleakness of their existence. It is in setting a murder/mystery in this already devastated domain that Wind River strikes you; through such aforementioned symbolism that it compels you.

First Trailer for Richard Linklater's LAST FLAG FLYING

The latest film from director Richard Linklater (Dazed and Confused, Boyhood) is upon us and while last year's rockus spiritual sequel to the auteur's breakout hit was an equally fun and insightful time at the movies it looks as if Linklater has switched back to more somber material for his latest endeavor as Last Flag Flying follows a former Navy Corps medic Larry "Doc" Shepherd (Steve Carell) who re-unites with old friends thirty years after serving together in Vietnam to bury his son, a young Marine killed in the Iraq War. Doc's friends include ex-Marine Sal Nealon (Bryan Cranston) and Reverend Richard Mueller (Laurence Fishburne) with the dynamic and history between the three seeming to carry the weight of the majority of this film as each of the three leads come to learn more about themselves and the lives they've led thus far through both their offspring and those they've met along the way. Based on a novel of the same name by Darryl Poniscan who adapted his own work into the screenplay with Linklater co-writing this looks to blend a variety of things that Linklater does well behind and through the camera. If you've ever seen any of the Before films then you're aware how engrossing Linklater can make a movie that contains nothing more than two people talking. And so, if Last Flag Flying was little more than these three incredibly charismatic actors sitting in a car talking about their lives and experiences as directed by Linklater I'd have no doubt it would be stellar, but considering the magnitude and timeliness of the circumstances not to mention the weight of the baggage that each of these three men certainly carry there is a whole other level that Linklater will be able to work with and on. As for the trailer itself, this looks appropriately solemn with, again, the three lead performances seemingly balancing the complex and various human emotions such a story no doubt entails. Last Flag Flying also stars Yul Vazquez and Cicely Tyson and will have its world premiere at the New York Film Festival on September 28th before opening in limited release on November 3rd.

LOGAN LUCKY Review

There are a lot of little things that make Logan Lucky as charming as it is. There is the effortless style of it. The breezy way in which director Steven Soderbergh (welcome back, sir) movies from one scene to the next despite the film involving a rather complicated script via new talent and/or what is a pseudonym for Soderbergh's wife Jules Asner or Soderbergh himself in Rebecca Blunt. There is also the ensemble cast of recognizable faces and charismatic personalities that make each and every one of the many plights that each and every one of these characters encounter that much more amusing. And then, and then there is the simple and just subtle enough techniques that deal in the filmmaking side of things that Soderbergh utilizes to make this feel simultaneously as raw as some of the emotional wounds these characters are dealing with while being as authentic as the general air of authenticity that surrounds each of these people. Whether it be in the shooting style that includes these movements or tracks that don't feel overly polished, but are seemingly intentional or the way in which Soderbergh, who serves not only as the director (and possible writer), but the cinematographer and editor here as well, cuts his scenes together to emphasize certain jokes or moments-it all feels rather perfectly imperfect. Bring all of these elements together and what we have is essentially a southern fried heist film from the guy who made all three of the kinetic and flashing Ocean's movies. It has been a decade since Ocean's Thirteen and it's not difficult to see why this genre is as attractive as it is as it offers the always appreciated underdog story, allows for moments of real tension and adventure, while presenting a canvas on which one can paint as many interesting and quirky characters as they like. The characters are the real draw of Logan Lucky as one can certainly layer in meaning that concerns the heartland of the American dream and how now, in our present state, that American dream in its purest sense can only be achieved by those who sell out or inherit their daddy's booming business as opposed to those who are willing to chase dreams and work hard, but Soderbergh's film never feels like an attempt to capture something bigger than that of the lark it actually is. It is largely about these people we don't see in big Hollywood productions often enough and upending the assumptions typically associated with them. There is meaning to be drawn if you so desire, but there is also room to just have a lot of fun-which Logan Lucky is. I guess the fact one could seemingly do both only makes the movie more impressive than it already is.

PATTI CAKE$ Review

Endearing. Endearing is the word to describe what quality and feeling writer/director Geremy Jasper captures in his feature directorial debut after spending the past seven or so years in the world of narrative shorts and music videos (Selena Gomez and Florence + the Machine among his subjects). Unsurprising then is the fact that Jasper's first feature-length effort, that he's also the sole writer on, deals heavily with the worlds of music, ambition, and the stark difference in those that live to make music and those who make music for a living. This has always been something of a fascinating area for artists to find themselves in-this kind of gorge where either side seems a steep slope that could easily threaten their ultimate goals in one way or another. On the one hand, there's fame and all that comes with it including both the many positives and the mountain of sacrifices while on the other hand it's hard to imagine trying to make a living doing something else while having your true passion be relegated to little more than a hobby. If you've ever chased a dream involving music then Patti Cake$ is wholly identifiable no matter the genre specialized in, but even if you have not a single, musically-inclined bone in your body the film still stands as a testament to anyone who has ever had odds stacked against them. I won't get too hyperbolic here given that, at the end of the day, this is a movie that does well to accomplish what it sets out to, but never comes across as something truly transcendent in what topics it's touching on or exceptional in how it conveys or delivers those ideas. Patti Cake$ has enough going on in its brain though, and is brought to life through such humbling albeit misguided shells that they do indeed come to be endearing thanks largely in part to the captivating performances from each of the members of this eclectic cast. Through the course of events in which we follow these engaging characters Jasper also begins to explore not only the inner turmoil of the titular Patti (a revelatory Danielle Macdonald), but he also takes on the culture that has bred her, that has groomed her into this personality that, strangely enough, defies the conventions of what a young, poor female would take from societal cues. Jasper addresses this blending of cultures and where the line is drawn or if there is a line at all. Patti Cake$, while charmingly performed, is most notable for digging into these ideas of our present, Instagram-obsessed society that is ironically full of people who don't seem to know themselves at all.

Official Trailer for THE KILLING OF A SACRED DEER Starring Colin Farrell

My first experience with a Yorgos Lanthimos film came two years ago when, in a spur of the moment decision, I decided to see what The Lobster was about while attending my first Toronto International Film Festival. I walked out of that film a little mystified and largely confused about what I'd just experienced and, looking back, that was undoubtedly appropriate. While I wasn't overly fond of the film I found myself thinking about it day after day in what likely ended up being the film my brain latched onto the most out of that festival as far as contemplating what it meant and how it was crafted (there were other films I liked more because I understood their intent and execution better). Months later, I found myself eager to purchase the Blu-ray when the film arrived on home video and to re-watch what had perplexed me. I made it through about half of the film before it started to feel like the great concept and idea that half presented began to wear thin. I haven't returned to the film since, but I wouldn't mind trying again. To this day it's just one of those movies that completely puzzles me and thus is the reason I'm rather excited to see what Lanthimos has in store for audiences with his follow-up The Killing of a Sacred Deer. The film follows a teenager's attempts to bring a brilliant surgeon into his dysfunctional family which takes a series of unexpected turns. The director reunites with star Colin Farrell who plays the aforementioned surgeon and while this first look at the film doesn't offer much by way of what exactly is going on it certainly sets the tone for what to expect as it has Raffey Cassidy of Tomorrowland performing a haunting rendition of Ellie Goulding's "Burn," whose lyrics take on a whole new meaning when paired with images of Farrell carrying kids through white hospital hallways and dropping them on their knees, kids crawling across the floors of picturesque houses, or kids simply being pushed over; there's a coldness to it all and a seeming atmosphere of horror I can't wait to see unfold on the big screen. There is also some rather cryptic, but equally disturbing dialogue that serves to highlight the screenplay from Lanthimos and Efthymis Filippou that I'm anxious to see how it might play into the larger picture. Needless to say, this is on my "need-to-see" list for this year's TIFF. The Killing of a Sacred Deer also stars Nicole Kidman, Barry Keoghan, Sunny Suljic, Bill Camp, Alicia Silverstone, and opens on October 27th, 2017.

First Trailer for MOLLY'S GAME Starring Jessica Chastain

The first trailer for Aaron Sorkin's feature directorial debut, Molly's Game, has arrived and I didn't need to see it to be sold on the fact I'm going to be excited to see this movie. Based on Molly Bloom's 2014 memoir of sorts titled Molly's Game: From Hollywood's Elite to Wall Street's Billionaire Boys Club, My High Stakes Adventure in the World of Underground Poker the film tells the story of Bloom who was once an Olympic-class skier who ended up running the world’s most exclusive high-stakes poker game for more than a decade before being arrested by the FBI. Bloom's tell-all about her exploits clearly informed Sorkin's screenplay and his interest in the material, but I'm curious as to what about Bloom's story made the famed writer want to take this on as his debut directorial effort. Given it was just announced Molly's Game will be having its world premiere at TIFF next month I will definitely be adding this to my list of must-sees given the film doesn't open until Thanksgiving and will likely be making a strong Oscar campaign for itself if it turns out to be even half as good as its credentials would imply. Providing yet another strong leading role for Jessica Chastain Molly will hopefully garner the actress the consideration she deserved for last year's underseen and underappreciated Miss Sloane (I still need to catch-up with Zookeeper's Wife). Chastain has the support of some strong and seasoned players here as well, but of course her strongest asset will likely be that of Sorkin's words and how he puts them into play as the film not only seems to have been adapted from Bloom's book, but what happened after the fact given the lawyer she is pitching herself to holds a copy of that book. We know Sorkin likes to play with structure as well as with the challenge of being able to essentially convey action sequences via that of long monologues that are anything but tedious. Steve Jobs was one of my favorite films of 2015 and for me, personally, The Social Network is still one of the best films of the last decade and so there is not only a level of excitement, but a level of expectation to Molly's Game that I certainly hope Sorkin can meet. I'm ready. Molly's Game also stars Idris Elba, Kevin Costner, Michael Cera, Jeremy Strong, Chris O’Dowd, Graham Greene, Brian d'Arcy James, Bill Camp, and opens on November 22nd, 2017.

On DVD & Blu-Ray: August 15, 2017

Initial Reaction: Video Review - ANNABELLE: CREATION

This week for Initial Reaction Charles and I were both unable to make it to the theater on Thursday to view the first screenings of the week's new releases, but thankfully we have a dedicated crew that was willing to help out and fill in during this time of need. The guys, who include Cody and Drew, have filled in for us before on such films as Hardcore Henry and the last Resident Evil film, but this time we were asking them to see what could potentially be one of the scariest movies of the year in Annabelle: Creation. These guys were up to the task and did us a solid and hopefully you'll reward their work by hitting the jump below and watching their review as well as subscribing! As for how the latest feature in the Conjuring cinematic universe did at the box office...well, it was pretty much the only game in town this weekend. Opening wide against the Brie Larson/Woody Harrelson/Naomi Watts drama The Glass Castle and Open Road's The Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature which scored only $8.9 million in its opening weekend, Annabelle: Creation brought in an estimated $35 million or almost $24 million more than the runner-up. Being the fourth in this franchise launched by James Wan's 2013 original each of these films has continued to deliver despite the previous Annabelle film being a critical dud. It also doesn't hurt that Warner Bros. budgeted this latest outing at just $15 million meaning the film has more than doubled its production budget in its first weekend. Director David F. Sandberg scored a solid hit with last summer's Lights Out bringing in $67.2 million on a $5 million budget along with good reviews so consider him a shoo-in for that Shazam! directing gig. The aforementioned The Glass Castle was only able to conjure (hah!) an opening weekend of $4.87 million from 1,461 theaters for an average of $3,337 per location. While slightly lower than expected the silver lining is the film played well to those who did see it as the film received an "A-" CinemaScore. In other news, both Dunkirk and Girls Trip continued to hold over well as they've now made $363.6 million and $105.6 million worldwide, respectively. In other news, Baby Driver passed $100 million domestically-Edgar Wright's first film to do so while The Dark Tower fell 59% in its sophomore weekend bringing in only $7.87 million for a domestic total of $34.3 million and a global cume of $53.6 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!

THE HITMAN'S BODYGUARD Review

Director Patrick Hughes has three directorial credits to his name; one I've never seen, another the watered down third installment in the Expendables franchise, and a third in this late-in-the-summer entry cleverly titled The Hitman's Bodyguard that seems intent on capitalizing on the penchant of its two stars for choosing cheap and easy over challenging and risky. Such choices typically provide audiences a few laughs and producers failed financial returns so why Lionsgate thought this might be the exception to the rule is uncertain. Whether it be Ryan Reynolds in disasters like R.I.P.D. or the mildly intriguing but woefully undercooked Self/less to that of Samuel L. Jackson in any number of the projects he tends to choose in between Tarantino and Marvel flicks (think The Man or Formula 51) the fact of the matter is it seemed pretty obvious what we were getting into from the moment the first trailer for The Hitman's Bodyguard was released no matter how much of a surprise it might have felt like it could potentially be. Sure, the premise is cute, but sole screenwriter Tom O'Connor (Fire to Fire AKA one of those direct to DVD Bruce Willis actioners) does little to nothing with the main idea and mostly puts the naturally charismatic personas of Jackson and Reynolds into tired buddy cop scenarios that result in a stale story and a bland experience that is neither consistently funny enough for us to excuse it's formulaic narrative or dark enough to challenge us in unexpected ways. This brings to light the real issue going on within The Hitman's Bodyguard in that it doesn't have a real idea of what it wants to be. Rather, Hughes pulls O'Connor's obviously uneven script in so many different directions that it ultimately fails to succeed in any one of the many genres and/or styles it attempts. I'd like to imagine that Hughes really thought he was pulling off something special and legitimately fun by getting back to the kind of balls to the wall, abundance of blood, unafraid to show death in spades-type action movies that Steven Seagal, Nicolas Cage, or even Harrison Ford might have made twenty some odd years ago, but while Hughes shows us these tendencies time and time again they are either executed so poorly they render themselves empty or they don't lean far enough into any one genre so as to play to the strengths of the tropes of that genre-remaining somewhere in the middle of all these things it wants to be without actually being any of those things. Honestly, it will be a wonder if the film leaves any impression on viewers other than how its use of soundtrack rivals that of last year's summer movie season closer, Suicide Squad. That's the only thing I'm still laughing about; its blatant disregard for how such tools are supposed to be utilized which, coincidentally, effectively summarizes the root cause of everything that goes wrong in this movie.

A GHOST STORY Review

It's not what A Ghost Story is saying. It's how A Ghost Story says it. Like chimes gently rustling in the wind or chills slowly creeping up your arms A Ghost Story somehow manages to give a sense of being so distant you're not one hundred percent sure what is causing the noise or the feeling, but at the same time it feels so deeply personal and so intimately cutting that deep down in your soul you know what it is. You know it's the wind, but you imagine something more ethereal. You know it's the melody of the song you're listening to, but you imagine it's because the singer is speaking directly to you; into your ear. It's difficult to describe past these dumbfounded attempts at articulating something meaningful just how much A Ghost Story hits you-that is, if it hits you. While it's difficult to describe all of the emotions and thoughts this latest film from David Lowery (Ain't Them Bodies Saints, Pete's Dragon) left me with I realize it will be just as difficult for some people to understand what the movieit is, what it's trying to do, or what the big deal is at all. And in many regards, this is understandable. This is a very quiet film-a film where people don't communicate and we, the audience, must discern what is happening and what is being felt from that non-verbal communication. We must allow Lowery and his 4:3 aspect ratio images to wash over us in a way that requires a fair amount of patience. If patient, the film seemingly speaks to you. If not, there is no need to waste your time on it. For me though, A Ghost Story worked in stages in that at first I was curious; never knowing where the story might lead or what might happen to the characters we see come in and out of the picture. Then, once the structure began to take shape, it became about the ideas-the themes of subjective spirituality, the concept of time and how it's the one thing we can't get more of no matter how rich we are, or the pain of dealing with loss and death and the inevitable nothingness everyone's future is likely to be, but that we hope and pray it's not. It's bleak. It's very bleak and it's very sad in how it captures small truths about life and the relationships we form while we're here. It's a film I find difficult to comprehend fully and thus is likely the reason it continues to resonate with me even days after seeing it and having watched several other films since. I keep returning to images, to sounds, and to the thoughts it instigated in my brain. It's a movie not for everyone, but if you find it's for you it's something pretty special.

First Trailer for MOTHER! Starring Jennifer Lawrence

The first trailer for director Darren Aronofsky's long-awaited follow-up to his big budget studio tentpole Noah has debuted and man, does it make things curiouser and curiouser. The film, which is led by Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem, is said to tell the story of their central couple's relationship being tested when uninvited guests arrive at their home, disrupting their otherwise tranquil existence. The trailer certainly lives up to delivering on this short synopsis as Aronofsky taps quickly into the atmosphere he is establishing by acknowledging that Lawrence's character "brings new life" to every room she has re-imagined in this apparent haven Bardem's character has created for her to make their own. That is, until the likes of Ed Harris and then Michelle Pfeiffer show up seemingly out of the blue, but with nefarious purposes that Bardem's character may or may not be in on. One thing is clear though, Lawrence's character has no idea what their purpose or intent is. The remainder of the trailer plays out in horror movie-like fashion as we get a barrage of images that tell us Aronofsky's latest effort may in fact be more trippy than anything the auteur has produced thus far (and that's saying a lot). Titled mother! not much is known about the film outside of who it stars and a skeleton of a plot, but more than anything what stands out about the aura surrounding this film is the fact we're finally living in a post-Hunger Games world. No more will we be treated to only David O. Russell pictures in between the franchise tentpoles, but Lawrence is now free to consistently engage in whatever sparks her interest despite the fact she'll surprisingly reprise her role in another X-Men film next year. Still, if her upcoming filmography is any indication it seems we'll be seeing more interesting work where mother! comes from as Lawrence is an endearing if not a diverse performer whose choice of projects always piques my interest. While mother! will have its wide release while I'll be in attendance at the Toronto International Film Festival I'll certainly be seeing it there and can't wait to unfold the mystery this movie is certain to be. mother! also stars Domhnall Gleeson, Brian Gleeson, Kristen Wiig, and opens on September 15th, 2017.

On DVD & Blu-Ray: August 8, 2017

DETROIT Review

If you thought the sound design in Dunkirk was crazy effective wait until you get a load of Kathryn Bigelow's Detroit. That isn't to say one is more effective than the other, but both utilize their environments and the sounds that resonate most within those environments to help push the visceral experience of both films to the next level. A level that indeed truly transcends the space and time of where one might be viewing the film and places you among the riots of the summer of 1967 where fear, uncertainty, and chaos ran rampant. I open with such a statement not to emphasize the technical aspects over everything else in a film as important and timely as Detroit so as to draw attention away from the tough and difficult subject matter at hand, but more to begin a dialogue about why the movie itself becomes equally effective and affecting. It is through this portal of sound, of genuine gun shot smatterings that ring out at any given point in the movie and make you feel not only as if you’re in the room with these characters, but are then also inherently placed in the headspace of someone such as Larry Reed (portrayed by newcomer Algee Smith), a singer and aspiring musician who just so happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. It is interesting, seeing how writer Mark Boal’s (The Hurt Locker, Zero Dark Thirty) screenplay brings several strands of characters, historical situations, and themes together into a single, encapsulating experience, but while we don’t meet Larry Reed until just prior to the events that the film dedicates its biggest chunk of time to it is his arc that we become most enamored with in many ways due largely to the fact he faces a wider variety of obstacles in terms of difficult choices as well as attempting to comprehend a life that seemingly has everything he ever hoped for stripped away in the matter of a handful of hours. That also said, Detroit is not about a single character, but more it is about how far away we still are from things being easy even if it would seem we’ve overcome so much in the fifty years since these infamous riots. As a piece of entertainment, Bigelow’s film isn’t something to be recommended for the experience which it entails, but rather because it is a heavy experience that needs to be known about and acknowledged. Detroit is about acknowledgment and about asking not why this happened in the past-we know why it happened-but rather if we’re doing today what we need to be doing in order to prevent as much from happening again. Detroit is a reminder we’re not doing as well as we should be in case you couldn’t tell already.

Initial Reaction: Video Review - THE DARK TOWER

Last Thursday I saw three films I'd yet to have the chance to screen despite one being open in limited release for almost a month and the other expanding wide after a limited roll out the week before. Both of those films ended up being two of the more affecting experiences I'm sure to have in theaters this year, but of course the third film I saw is the one that made the most money and for that reason, is the one we reviewed on Initial Reaction this week. That isn't to say I wasn't excited for the film-I love a good blockbuster as much as the next person-but while the film promised the beginning of a new cinematic universe and performances from Matthew McConaughey and Idris Elba that might be fun if not  career-defining roles it was certainly the least impressive of the bunch. What in fact came out of this experience was a rather middle of the road one where I wasn't mad I sat through The Dark Tower, but it certainly wasn't all it seemed fans of the Stephen King book series were hoping it might be. Charles weighed in on things from this perspective as he's read the novels whereas I was able to give an account from the point of view of someone who had no real idea what they were getting themselves into. All in all, none of it seemed to matter much to general movie-goers as Sony's The Dark Tower finished atop the softest weekend at the domestic box office since early April, garnering less than $20 million in its first three days of release. Delivering an estimated $19.5 million from 3,451 locations this was a rather disappointing debut for the studio's $60 million production as Sony was hoping to kick-off that aforementioned universe in what seems would have been a multi-platform franchise (a TV series is still in the works, sources say). It's hard to say after this soft opening and the lukewarm reception from critics and audiences if the television series will still happen, but while I wasn't necessarily a fan of the film I'd be interested in seeing this universe get some justice in the form of an adaptation led by a different creative team. It's not all bad news though as this is the second largest opening weekend ever for a King adaptation, behind only 2007's 1408, which went on to gross over $70 million domestically. Unfortunately, it seems as if Dark Tower will more than likely end its run closer to $50-55 million mark. As far as international numbers are concerned, The Dark Tower opened in 19 markets for an additional $8 million which brings it's worldwide total to $27.5 million with openings in France, Germany, Italy, Australia, UK, Spain, Korea, Brazil and Mexico still to come. Oh, and if you're wondering what those other two films were that would be A Ghost Story and Detroit which I'll have written reviews up for soon. 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!

THE DARK TOWER Review

It seems like there have been rumblings of a Dark Tower adaptation for as long as my memory will allow me to recall, but never did it actually seem as if a feature film version of the material would make its way to the big screen. Well, here we are, the summer movie season of 2017 winding down and the feature film version of what is said to be Stephen King's magnum opus of sorts, his most expansive series to date which now consists of eight novels, 4,250 pages, and introduces concepts and characters from King's many other works that come into play as the series progresses has arrived. The first volume in the The Dark Tower series, subtitled The Gunslinger, was published in 1982 and comprised itself of five short stories that had been published between 1978 and 1981 to which those stories have now been condensed down into a 95-minute, PG-13 would-be blockbuster that never takes off in the way it would seem it was always destined to. Rather, director Nikolaj Arcel's (A Royal Affair) tight, but exposition-heavy film suggests there is much mythology left to be explored, but for one reason or another it was decided the Cliff Notes version was the best way to go out of the gate so as to no doubt make the movie on the cheap and hopefully as accessible for the uninitiated as it would be pleasing to the fans who've been waiting on it for twenty-five years. Sure, the film makes sense in the way that point A leads to point B which inevitably leads to a CGI heavy point C, but never do we feel compelled by anything that's going on, invested in any of the characters taking part, nor-as one of those uninitiated members in the audience-do we care to see the series continue which one might think would have been the key to Sony finally ponying up and making a Dark Tower movie in a current world of shared cinematic universes. Truthfully though, it kind of fails to emphasize this factor at all. In many ways one wants to commend the studio for telling a more contained story rather than baiting viewers with tease after tease so that they have to come back for a sequel to see what they really wanted to see the first time around, but at the same time fans also want to see what they imagined while reading the source material come to life in a good movie and whether or not The Dark Tower is that is what's up for debate. The Dark Tower is not necessarily a bad movie, but it's not very good either. It's very much a middle of the road affair; not bad enough to hate, but not good enough to remember. Let's put it this way: the best thing you can say about The Dark Tower is that it's competent and the worst thing you can say is that it's uninspired.

Initial Reaction: Video Review - ATOMIC BLONDE

While The Emoji Movie was the bigger release of this past weekend the movie I was (obviously) more excited for was Atomic Blonde. The film, which stars Charlize Theron, James McAvoy, Sofia Boutella, and John Goodman clearly has a more than solid cast and when you pair them with John Wick co-director David Leitch for what has been advertised as a balls to the wall action extravaganza set to eighties music it would seem difficult to go wrong in any kind of way. While I covered this extensively in my review, the short version is that the action gets top marks while the movie tries to do too much narratively and gets too bogged down in story for its own good. That said, it seemed audiences weren't as attracted to a project with such credentials anyway as Atomic Blonde was expected to at least hit the $20 million mark, but after delivering only $18.5 million I imagine the fledgling STX Entertainment was rather disappointed. It was clear the distributor made a big push with this one as the marketing campaign was huge so to see the film come in only $4 million above what the original John Wick did on its debut weekend three years ago with a price tag of $10 million less is undoubtedly disheartening. The film also received a "B" CinemaScore (which isn't great by CinemaScore standards) and played to an audience that was 51% male vs. 49% female, of which 38% were under the age of 25. All of that taken into consideration, Atomic Blonde still has the majority of overseas territories to open in including in the UK, France, and Germany later in August. So far the film has earned almost $6 million abroad for a worldwide total of $24 million, but this still feels like a film that could very much break-out overseas if the stars align. It will be interesting to see how the movie plays over the next few weeks as I expect Dark Tower to go down in flames this weekend with nothing else in the way of action-centric releases until (maybe) The Hitman's Bodyguard and Logan Lucky on August 18th. Could this R-rated actioner benefit from coming out on the heels of Wonder Woman and lead to an eventual win? Only time will tell, but while I wasn't a huge fan of the final product I'd like to see more films featuring Theron's Lorraine Broughton and so I'm hoping this one pulls off enough profit to warrant future films. 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 CALL ME BY YOUR NAME

One of the biggest stories to come out of Sundance earlier this year was that of director Luca Guadagnino’s (A Bigger Splash, which I wasn't a huge fan of) follow-up based on André Aciman's 2007 novel titled Call Me By Your Name. The film, which is being released by Sony Pictures Classics and that I plan to make one of my must-see films at the Toronto International Film Festival next month, takes place in the midst of the summer of 1983 and is the story of a sudden and powerful romance that blossoms between an adolescent boy (Interstellar's Timothée Chalamet) and a summer guest named Oliver (Armie Hammer) at his parents' cliffside mansion on the Italian Riviera. During the restless summer weeks, unrelenting but buried currents of obsession, fascination, and desire intensify their passion as they test the charged ground between them and verge toward the one thing both already fear they may never truly find again: total intimacy. Though I generally try to avoid reviews prior to seeing a movie, much like with Manchester by the Sea last year-the buzz coming off this thing was unavoidable and this first trailer certainly puts its praise to use as it is plastered with pull-quotes describing the film with such adjectives as ravishing, piercing, classic, and sublime. That's all without even mentioning the fact it has also been labeled as both a masterwork and a knockout of a film. One hates to assign such descriptors prematurely, but the love here looks to be unanimous and while I will try not to allow too much of this to filter into my expectations I'm certainly looking more forward to seeing what the film has to offer because of it. Also, the Sufjan Stevens song choice here couldn't seem to be more fitting. Call Me By Your Name also stars Michael Stuhlbarg, Amira Casar, Esther Garrel, and openson November 24th, 2017.

On DVD & Blu-Ray: August 1, 2017