Denis Villeneuve's Grand and Gorgeous Epic is as Insightful about Sincerity and Strategy as it is Engaging on the Broad Levels of a Big-Budget Studio Blockbuster.


Matthew Vaughn has Officially become a Director of Diminishing Returns with this Overstuffed and Laughably Corny Slog of a Spy Caper.


This Trip back to North Shore High Justifies itself by still being Sharp in its Observations of Vacuousness.


Writer/Director Cord Jefferson’s Feature Debut Splits the Difference Between Searing Satire and Emotional Family Drama Coming out a Winner in Both Respects.


Emma Stone is Daring and Mark Ruffalo is Hilarious in this Surreal Fever Dream of Philosophy and Attempting to Understand our Nature through Unorthodox Methods.


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

First PHANTOM THREAD Trailer Starring Daniel Day-Lewis

Our first look at the latest from auteur Paul Thomas Anderson has arrived just two months before its debut in theaters and while I'm still not sure exactly what this movie is about or what kind of thematic ground it will cover, as always when it comes to PTA, I'm intrigued. In his latest film, titled Phantom Thread, Anderson once again teams with Daniel Day-Lewis after their previous and award-winning collaboration in There Will Be Blood, to tell a story set in the couture world of 1950's London that follows Day-Lewis' Reynolds Woodcock who is a dress-maker that is commissioned to design for members of high society and the royal family. Per usual, this is a trailer for a film that likely has more going on and more varied purposes than that of whatever a short synopsis might provide. While Inherent Vice was supposedly a crime drama of sorts it obviously turned out to be less conventional and more elusive than anything Anderson had done previously and we're talking about the guy who wrote and directed The Master. While PTA's films are nothing if not divisive they can also prove to be extremely compelling and, if nothing else, should certainly be appreciated for the level of craft that is being operated on. I don't need to know much about what Phantom Thread is about or what themes, ideas, or issues the writer/director might be trying to work through with it; I just need to know that this is an authentic piece of work from a very unique voice in the cinematic landscape that just so happens to feature one of if not the greatest living actor of his generation in what could potentially be his final film role. I didn't even have to see a trailer to convince myself to watch this film, but here we are and the trailer is perfectly acceptable in that it has only piqued my interest further. It seems PTA's more definitive aesthetic style as of late suits this world of 1950's high-fashion rather well and there is a constant air of intrigue around the intentions of Day-Lewis' character and whether or not they seem to be sinister. Where this thing might lead is anyone's guess as the film comes from an original screenplay by PTA, but while the director is allowed to create such staggering works as this too seems to be I'm curious if anyone outside the film critics bubble is anxiously awaiting such a feature. Phantom Thread also stars Lesley Manville, Camilla Rutherford, Vicky Krieps, Richard Graham, Jane Perry, Bern Collaço, Pip Phillips, Ingrid Sophie Schram, Sarah Lamesch, Lujza Richter, and opens on Christmas Day. 

Initial Reaction: Video Review - HAPPY DEATH DAY

While we were somewhat behind on our viewing and reviewing of Blade Runner 2049, Happy Death Day only comes up short in the managing to post our review on YouTube in a timely manner category as we saw the new teen slasher movie last Thursday, on the eve of Friday the 13th, just as it was meant to be seen. That said, having Happy Death Day debut on a Friday the 13th in October is a no-brainer and both Universal and Blumhouse reaped the benefits as they scored another win in the horror genre for the third time this year after the massive successes that were Split and Get Out. The Christopher Landon-directed horror flick (that is just as much a comedy, honestly) easily topped last weekend's box office by raking in $26.5 million and outperforming the opening weekend for The Visit, which went on to gross $65.2 million two years ago. Based on the average for Blumhouse titles debuting over $20 million, it seems completely reasonable to expect Happy Death Day will also make a $60 million domestic run, especially given there are two weekends remaining before Halloween and college students will be on fall break at some point in that timeline which, not surprisingly, was what made up the majority of Happy Death Day's audience. Scoring a "B" CinemaScore from opening day audiences the film saw 63% of that audience being under the age of 25 proving kids do in fact still go to the cinemas, at least every once in a while. Happy Death Day also debuted in 11 markets last weekend and brought in an estimated $5 million for what currently sits as a $35 million worldwide total with the film set to open in 16 more territories, including the U.K. this weekend. Meanwhile, Blade Runner 2049 dropped over 50% in its second weekend, while STX's The Foreigner debuted with a modest, but good for its budget 12.8 million from 2,515 theaters. Lastly, Open Road's Marshall delivered on expectations with an estimated $3 million from 821 locations. 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!

Initial Reaction: Video Review - BLADE RUNNER 2049

It has been nearly two weeks since the first shows for Blade Runner 2049 began screening for general audiences, but despite the time lapse both myself and my co-host on Initial Reaction, Mr. Charles Browder, felt the need to get down our thoughts and conversation in a quick little video review that has now been uploaded to the channel. If you've been following the channel at all you'll know we have no longer been able to film at our regular theater that allowed for us to film inside after screening the films on Thursday nights and having to re-locate, not being allowed certain liberties as well as other factors have very much thrown off the logistics of what was, for a while, a pretty well-oiled machine. Hopefully, one day, we'll get back to a routine where we're able and allowed to have freer reign over our production, but as for now it's kind of a fly by the seat of our pants operation. All of that is to say, both Charles and I really enjoyed Blade Runner 2049 and wanted to discuss it. Unfortunately, it seems not as many people were clamoring for this thirty-five year later sequel as Warner Bros. was probably hoping for given the $150 million production debuted to a mild $31.5 million domestically while internationally, the film met overseas expectations, debuting with an estimated $50.2 million from 63 markets, capturing the #1 spot in 45 of those markets. Currently, the film sits at $64 million domestically and $95 million internationally for a worldwide total of $159.8 million which does mean the film has made back its production budget and still has release dates in both China and Japan next week, 10/27, but the promotion machine for this thing was top of the line and Warner Bros. is no doubt hoping it breaks out in at least one of those markets as it seemed the film was destined to be much bigger than it has come to be. Still, it's hard to dispute the quality of the film and if there was an opportunity to put our two cents in and maybe just encourage even a few people to take a chance on seeing Blade Runner 2049 on the big screen it was worth it and thus our review is now on the channel. 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!


One might think, given Chadwick Boseman has now played three historical characters in three rather high profile biopics, that it is not only something the actor enjoys or is good at, but that these historical figures might begin to meld together in one fashion or another as far as their screen personas are concerned. If nothing else though, Marshall proves that Boseman is as skilled an actor as he is a disguise artist given his representation of the titular character in Marshall is as different and unexpected as his incarnations of Jackie Robinson and James Brown were before. The fact Boseman doesn't really share any physical features with the late Marshall isn't distracting for, as Boseman has done in the past, he seemingly captures a spirit or an essence of that person-even if their personality wasn't widely known-and delivers in his portrayal that real personality. It's authentic and it's something you can't manufacture. Lucky for audiences, Boseman's performance and its definitive nature in clarifying Boseman's transformative abilities is not all the movie has to offer as Marshall is a number of interesting things bound together in a seamless and rather moving package that just so happens to include another phenomenal turn from an actor who has shown time and time again that there is no reason to doubt his talent or his choices. Furthermore, Marshall is as much a movie about Mr.  Thurgood Marshall, American lawyer and eventual Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, as it is about Sam Friedman (Josh Gad), an insurance lawyer from Greenwich, Connecticut who comes to form something of an uncommon bond with the famed lawyer who went from town to town for the NAACP fighting for African Americans who were on trial not for their deeds, but for their race. It is important to note that Friedman was a white Jew (this takes place in 1941, mind you) and is someone who no doubt faced prejudice in his own life to certain extents, but it is this combination of Boseman and Gad and their buddy dynamic, of the biopic and the courtroom drama, and of those whodunit aspects with the structure of a super hero origin story that sets Marshall apart from not just being another serious drama pining for awards by portraying real-life events, but a motion picture that is genuine in its attempt to portray all facets of the life of a man who strove for nothing but admirable change.  

New Trailer for BLACK PANTHER Starring Chadwick Boseman

Marvel's has somewhat unexpectedly, but not really dropped a new trailer for Black Panther today helping everyone's week get off to a better than usual start. While this was expected at some point before Thor: Ragnarok arrived in theaters I'm slightly surprised Marvel has decided to go a full two weeks before the actual release date. That said, this will only get all those who were going to see Ragnarok on the first day anyway all the more pumped for the next installment of their cinematic universe while simultaneously getting the the Marvel faithful as excited as ever for what's right around the corner. All of this is obviously a pretty big deal as it is one of the few African-American led comic book movies and the first for Marvel Studios despite having included characters like Falcon in other films. In the wake of Wonder Woman this summer Black Panther continues to shows the diversification of what that former status quo believed itself to be. It's frankly wonderful to see such major shifts taking place and being executed by major studios as it relays bigger cultural and social impacts than some might even realize, but all of this good is made even better when the film itself tends to look promising. Of course, there was no reason to ever think Black Panther was risky given Marvel enlisted director Ryan Coogler (Fruitvale Station, Creed) to helm the project. This paired with the fact we already got our first look at Chadwick Boseman's titular character in last year's Captain America: Civil War which in and of itself was pretty fantastic. Take all of this and add to the ever-growing promise of the film that Coogler also rounded-up frequent collaborator Michael B. Jordan to play the film's antagonist Erik Killmonger and you have what is more or less a guaranteed quality picture if not a guaranteed box office smash due to the fact it is another in a long line of Marvel successes. As for the trailer itself, Coogler and his team certainly seem to have found a look and tone they wanted to work in as the visual effects have improved since that first trailer and there is a scope here that was missing before-a scope that feels appropriate when introducing audiences to an entirely new nation. Black Panther also stars Lupita Nyong'o, Danai Gurira, Daniel Kaluuya, Angela Bassett, Andy Serkis, Forest Whitaker, Florence Kasumba, Martin Freeman, John Kani, Winston Duke, Sterling K. Brown, Phylicia Rashad, and opens on February 16th, 2018.


At the age of sixty-three and nearly seven years after any type of significant showing on the big screen I imagine Jackie Chan doesn't necessarily want to be starring in second rate scripts Liam Neeson passed on as someone called Quan Ngoc Minh. I imagine he'd like to be making more thought-provoking actioners or maybe even interesting character pieces, but that just doesn't seem to be in the cards for the poor guy. He seems to have tried his hand at making low-risk action/comedies and has done an abundance of voice over work, most recently in the subpar The LEGO Ninjago Movie, but the question has now become that of how does a man always known for his agility and stylistic fighting abilities age into a Hollywood environment based on franchises and brand recognition? Well, make Rush Hour 4 obviously. This is kind of the point though, as Chan has played in seemingly everything the industry could think to put him in, so it makes sense that now-as there is no shortage of aging stars that were once marquee names who are willing to try their hand at being action stars-that a true action star would join in on the fun. Unfortunately, The Foreigner isn't that much fun. As much as this feels like a last resort of sorts for Chan it is a double-edged sword for that of his co-star Pierce Brosnan. Brosnan would seemingly like to be a well-regarded leading man in more mature fare, but it is likely he sees no other options in maintaining his relevancy and so we will continue to get things such as leading roles like in The November Man (though I wonder if he could even pull off something like that only three years after the fact) and supporting roles such as this before having a late in life career renaissance that will leave his legacy as more than just the guy who once played James Bond...or maybe that arc will be saved for Daniel Craig. All of this is to say that both Chan and Brosnan as well as director Martin Campbell (The Mask of ZorroGoldeneye, Casino Royale) have been put to better use in much better movies as The Foreigner feels like a much-delayed attempt to hop on the now sub-genre of older, unsuspecting guys kicking ass and taking names. The Foreigner is a film as generic as anything we've seen this year which is a shame considering it doesn't utilize its stars strongest asset to great effect. I like Jackie Chan, you can't help but to root for the guy and that is inevitable here as well despite the fact that every few minutes you might have to ask yourself where these characters are, where they're going, and/or what exactly they're doing and for what reason. It's that kind of movie though, one that by the time the credits roll you'll shrug it off and move on; no harm and no real foul.


The test for a movie that shows us the same thing over and over again is whether or not it makes us want to return to it over and over again. Does it use this technique in a way that it twists the conventions of whatever genre it is being applied to in a unique enough fashion that it brings something fresh to what we've seen before? In short, does it make something familiar feel born again-the same way our protagonist feels every time they wake up with another opportunity to live their best life. That is ultimately what these kinds of movies are about, right? The hypothetical shot at being able to live your life over and over again to the point you appreciate and/or realize what one has been taking for granted and how much there is to truly be thankful for. This doesn't change with writer's Scott Lobdell's (X-Men: Days of Future Past) interpretation of the material in Happy Death Day as he adapts it for the horror/teen slasher genre, but the basic idea of applying it to this kind of movie with the added caveat of our main character having to put together the pieces of who's trying to kill her in a single day is pretty ingenious with director Christopher B. Landon (Paranormal Activity II, III, IV and V as well as the supremely underrated Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse) mining the material and the setting for all its worth in his execution. Landon, son of the late Michael Landon, has a knack for mixing scares and humor and eliciting the fun that can come from being scared. In other words, he understands that being afraid should entail a whole range of emotions and not just the single one that causes you to jump from your seat. Due to this, it would be easy to mistake his latest for more of a comedy than a horror/thriller, but that it layers in elements of each of these with effective measure is what makes the movie such a fun ride to go along with. Sure, we've seen this kind of situation play out before, most notably in Groundhog's Day and since in other genres through the likes of Source CodeEdge of Tomorrow, Before I Fall, and the countless iterations of William Dean Howells' 1892 short story "Christmas Every Day" that you've no doubt seen at least one version of around the holidays, but in taking this concept and applying it to a cheeky genre exercise like Scream both Lobdell and Landon have created a knowing horror flick that revels in the main trope and has fun with the archetypes. So yeah, I'd watch Happy Death Day again. And probably again.

Red-Band Trailer for BLOCKERS Starring John Cena

The first, red-band trailer for Universal's Blockers has arrived and it finally feels as if we might have a solid comedy waiting in the wings. Over what was a notoriously dry summer that saw Snatched, Baywatch, The House, and The Hitman's Bodyguard do little to nothing for the genre (not to mention Edgar Wright making another good film, but not necessarily a funny one) most audiences relied on the likes of dramedies such as The Big Sick and maybe Logan Lucky (for those who actually saw it) to garner a few laughs while even the animated fare was somewhat light on quality with Captain Underpants maybe being the best, but least seen of the bunch. All of that to say, the fall awards season isn't particularly known for its sense of humor, but while we'll get a few comedies in the form of sequels such as Daddy's Home 2 and A Bad Mom's Christmas I'll be looking forward to next spring when an original and seemingly clever comedy like Blockers drops. I'm surprised much of the reception to this has been negative as I found much of the situational stuff here to be pretty appealing in terms of the comedy being elicited from the generational gap which typically plays pretty stale. Maybe I simply have more trust in the movie as a whole because it is the directorial debut of Kay Cannon who has cut her teeth as a writer on New Girl and the Pitch Perfect series before jumping into the director's chair. I tend to appreciate Cannon's offbeat and rather random sense of humor that she infuses into her projects and I look forward to how that crosses over into her filmmaking style. It also doesn't hurt that Cannon's lead trio consisting of Leslie Mann, Ike Barinholtz, and John Cena seem to have great chemistry between one another and make for a group of friends I could see having fun hanging out with outside of watching them in a movie. Mann and Barinholtz definitely know their way around a studio comedy, but it will be nice to see Cena take on a larger role in a live action comedy after that scene-stealing performance in Trainwreck a few years back. All of that said, I hope this breaks the mold of stale studio comedies for, if you saw the trailer for Father Figures a few weeks back, you'll recognize how dry the well has indeed run. Blockers also stars Kathryn Newton, Geraldine Viswanathan, Graham Phillips, Gideon Adlan, Jake Picking, Ramona Young, Miles Robbins, Jimmy Bellinger, and opens on April 6th, 2018.

BLADE RUNNER 2049 Review

The plan for Blade Runner 2049, the thirty-five year later sequel to director Ridley Scott's 1982 now classic Blade Runner, was to watch Scott's "final cut" of the film prior to seeing director Denis Villeneuve's (Prisoners, Sicario, Arrival) follow-up. The original Blade Runner is one of those movies that I was always told I needed to watch and indeed started countless times, but never actually made it all the way through. Whether it was due to a lack of intrigue, bad timing, or something of the like I somehow ended up feeling rather familiar with the world Scott created from this Philip K. Dick short story without ever really becoming aware of the narrative it was relaying. Alas, there wasn't time to squeeze in a viewing of the original film prior to my wife and I's planned date night this past Saturday (things happen when you have an almost three year-old and Friday night, Blade Runner didn't happen) and so, with little knowledge of exactly what to expect from Blade Runner 2049 other than a visually stunning experience (cinematographer Roger Deakins is once again responsible for what we see here) this second, seemingly more intrusive story into the world of replicants and their version of the future happened. So, did I understand everything that happened? I think so. Did I appreciate everything as much as the guy behind me who said "wow" out loud no less than seventeen times throughout the two hour and forty-five minute runtime? Probably not. Still, Blade Runner 2049 is a movie that is able to stand on its own to a degree, but certainly benefits from having the knowledge of what occurred in the prior installment. Having gone back since seeing 2049 and watched the final cut of the original film I feel as if I've had a unique enough experience with the larger story being told that my individual experience with the film is something of a reverse of the rose-tinted glasses idiom in that the original film is not one that has been unduly idolized because of its stance in pop culture before I had the opportunity to make up my own mind about it, but rather my perspective on the original is of more significance because I know where these characters go and I know what the actions took in that initial film lead to. This inverse experience while, not necessarily recommended, tends to only make 2049 that much more mystical-that much more epic and that much more meaningful.


In the two years since The Force Awakens debuted in theaters it has become one of those easy to watch movies you can put on at anytime and always count on getting hooked. Sure, the issues it had with aping A New Hope have become all the more glaring, but at the same time so has the incredibly strong work with all of the new characters that were introduced and by virtue of that-our desire to see those character's journeys continue has only increased. All of that to say we now finally have a new, extended look at director Rian Johnson's (Brick, The Brother's Bloom, Looper) follow-up to J.J. Abram's safe, but respectable introduction to this latter trilogy. Every other movie in town has pretty much cleared out sans DreamWorks Animation's Ferdinand which should make for fine counter-programming while a plethora of other major releases follow in the weeks afterward including the Jumaji sequel, the third Pitch Perfect movie, the Hugh Jackman/Zac Efron musical The Greatest Showman as well as a handful of other adult-centric films that I'm eager to see how everything shakes out at the holiday box office. That's not what we're here to talk about though, that would be The Last Jedi and what this new trailer tells us about what we can expect for Episode VIII. While Johnson warned fans per his Twitter that if they want to go into the movie as unknowing as possible to avoid the trailer, but even for someone who generally avoids later trailers and clips altogether it was next to impossible to not watch this new Star Wars trailer as we've seen no new footage or hint at story since the teaser dropped in April. The tease that Rey's hero might not be all she'd built him up to be seems to continue to take shape in this new trailer as Daisy Ridley and Mark Hamill's Rey and Luke don't exactly share the master/padawan relationship I think most expected them to develop after the tease at the end of The Force Awakens. There will of course be much dissecting and speculating, but for now let us just bask in the glory of seeing new images of a new Star Wars movie that will hopefully answer some of those burning questions left by The Force Awakens as well as the full-on return of Hamill to the role of Luke Skywalker. The film also stars John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Laura Dern, Adam Driver, Carrie Fisher, Domhnall Gleeson, Lupita Nyong’o, Andy Serkis, Kelly Marie Tran, Gwendoline Christie, Warwick Davis, Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker, and Benicio Del Toro. Star Wars: The Last Jedi opens December 15th, 2017.


Israeli-born director Hany Abu-Assad makes no apologies for the type of movie he's made in The Mountain Between Us. There is no reason to, either. The film is a handsomely mounted, beautifully photographed, human drama about two people who become stranded with no documentation whatsoever about where they might be. This is a movie that totally accomplishes what it sets out to do, that completely embodies what it is meant to be, and on most levels you have to applaud a film for being as much. It's admirable that Abu-Assad, working from a screenplay by Chris Weitz (About a Boy) who adapted Charles Martin's 2010 novel of the same name, followed this desire to adapt the source material in the vein of this grand romantic adventure tale of old that so willingly commits to the type of movie it wants to be that we honestly don't see much of anymore. Is there room for criticism? Of course, but it's difficult to balance. The movie is inherently melodramatic and rather frail in its plotting in how it documents the passage of time (hint: poorly), but stars Kate Winslet and Idris Elba always look just the right amount of roughed up to still be attractive in that rugged sense that will surely make couples on a date night want to get lost in the wilderness together. All of that said, this isn't a great movie despite having several positive attributes-most being in the sweeping visuals-but when taken on the terms of the type of movie it is aiming to be and given The Mountain Between Us is essentially the most prestigious pile of dopey cheese one could ever create-it works for what it is. It does, it really does. Early in the film a plane flies overhead while Elba's character struggles to shoot off a flare. Winslet's character yells at the top of her lungs, but out of frustration Elba's Ben turns to her and tells her that they can't hear her. "I know they can't hear me! It's just what you do!" She replies. Watching The Mountain Between Us is kind of like that as well; even if you're intelligent enough to know the movie isn't a great movie you keep watching out of a need and/or want to feel something specific and have a certain kind of experience. The Mountain Between Us fills this kind of quota in spades.


It seems as if this final trailer for Justice League, a mere six weeks prior to the films release, is a little unnecessary given we've already received three major trailers-the last of which was just in July and spanned just over four minutes in length, but alas much has happened with the film in three months since that last trailer dropped with the biggest change of course being that director Joss Whedon was brought in to steer Justice League to its opening day. At first, it was announced Whedon would ony be coming in to help finish up the film as Zack Snyder dealt with issues in his personal life, but since that initial announcement it has become clear Whedon's role is much larger than that as he will receive a screenwriting credit, meaning he rewrote at least a third of the movie. 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 and this major overhaul on Justice League looks to only be the beginning of as much. All of that taken into consideration, this trailer looks and feels awesome. What is there not to like? Ben Affleck's Batman is doing his thing, that knowing shot of Gal Gadot's Wonder Woman giving a slight smirk in the midst of battle is great while Ezra Miller's The Flash and Jason Momoa's Aquaman make it look as if 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 long before the backlash received on Dawn of Justice and it is a film that has clearly had a new light shined on it due to those reactions. Ultimately, the film might have a spunkier tone due to Whedon's re-writes, but if this trailer is any indication as to the now movie overall (which it totally could not be) it would seem all those rumors about the level of Whedon's involvement over the past few months would be true. The tone here is much lighter than anything we've seen from the film up to this point, but I'm digging what I'm seeing with cautious optimism. Side note: We get our first glimpse of Henry Cavill here, but not as Superman, so-still pleased with that decision despite the fact we know Supes 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.


Going into directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris' (Little Miss Sunshine) take on the legendary tennis match between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs in 1973 I had no real idea of the historical context of the movie or even of the individuals involved and so, needless to say, I was about to get a history lesson from what is arguably the worst place to receive a history lesson: the movies. Still, if one can appreciate cinema as an art form to encapsulate a moment or a culmination of events-a cinematic summary if you will-rather than an accurate depiction of every detail surrounding certain subjects that tend to be true, then we should be okay. While I still don't know much more about the showdown between King and Riggs outside of what I learned in screening Battle of the Sexes what I can say and likely what is the best thing the film has to offer is the insight into just how average casual chauvinism was in that day and age. Without blinking, in one of the opening scenes, Bill Pullman as Jack Kramer-a former professional tennis player and head of the prestigious tennis association King and many of her female counterparts were members of-tosses out how much of a fact it is that men are not only faster and stronger than women, but more competitive by nature. That it's biology. The most revealing part being that Kramer doesn't actually mean this to be offensive because he doesn't think of it as being offensive, but rather that it is simply the truth. While this level of arrogance still exists and is likely even worse in some circles today (don't believe me, look at the YouTube comments on the trailers for this movie) it has been amplified to a defensive level because time has also allowed for women to gain more and more of the equality they seek and so rightly deserve. As a white male I always find it difficult to complain about anything as I've certainly never faced anything insurmountable in my life and while I don't want to make this movie review a discussion about where my opinion falls as far as women's rights and such it kind of shocks me a movie such as this is even considered something of a statement nearly forty-five years after the fact when one would imagine human intelligence might have moved on to understanding that women are better at some things than men and men are better at some things than women, but regardless we all deserve the same type and, more importantly, the same amount of respect. It's not a difficult concept to grasp, but if Battle of the Sexes is a rather by the numbers sports biopic it at least serves to show audiences how little we've actually progressed and how much farther we have to go.


I generally admire what director Guillermo del Toro does as I can appreciate the eye the guy has for filmmaking, but to be honest I was rather underwhelmed by 2013's Pacific Rim from a story perspective. I knew del Toro would be able to deliver on a visual level for sure, but that there wasn't a strong investment to be made in any of the characters or their plight of driving a seemingly obsolete special weapon in an effort to save the world from the apocalypse. More, I wanted to be invested in the world del Toro created and while there were certainly compelling elements to the original film it wasn't as wholly satisfying as I'd hoped. For further exploration as to why the film doesn't particularly hold up in my memory as being overly interesting you can read my original review here. Moving on though, we now have the sequel that was always something of an uncertainty. It was the huge numbers in China that convinced Legendary to move ahead with a sequel, this time Universal taking over the distribution for Warner Bros. In Pacific Rim: Uprising John Boyega takes over the protagonist reigns from Charlie Hunnam as the film begins a decade after the events of the original as Boyega plays Jake Pentecost, the son of Ideris Elba's character in the first film. Jake, who was a once-promising Jaegar pilot has become caught up in the criminal underworld, but when his estranged sister, Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi), gives him one last chance to live up to his father’s promise, he takes charge against a new wave of Kaiju attacks. All of that said, this first look at Uprising looks to be as visually promising as the first though I'm curious to see if new director Steven S. DeKnight (who worked as the showrunner for Netflix's Daredevil season one), who took over part of the screenplay writing duties once coming on board, will be able to make me more invested in this world and these people. That isn't to say I don't appreciate the visuals-del Toro's original was as inventive and grand as anything else the auteur has done-but while Uprising certainly looks to be a colorful action romp with Boyega having a lot of fun-his character teaming up with friend Lambert (Scott Eastwood) to pilot a state-of-the-art new Jaegar called Gipsy Avenger-I'm hoping it delivers on all fronts. Pacific Rim: Uprising also stars Jing Tian, Cailee Spaeny, Burn Gorman, Adria Arjona, Charlie Day, and opens on March 23, 2018.


Writer/director Mike White (Chuck & Buck, School of Rock) has made a movie meant for the purposes of entertaining about a man who seethes with jealousy from the first frame and who reminds us and, more specifically, men of a certain age that time has or is running out. This isn't exactly the best way to get an audience who likely paid to see your movie on your side, but with the endearing presence of Ben Stiller serving as the conduit for White's exploration of middle age the well-regarded writer, who is only directing his second feature film with Brad's Status, is able to perform such explorations with such balance and well-defined introspection that the film mostly transcends its rather grim implications and is able to become one easily appreciated for its reassurance. Leave it to White, who has always excelled at crafting these kinds of human, but uncomfortably so, stories to make this reassurance not in the form of our titular protagonist finding and/or achieving what he so greatly craves for the majority of the runtime, but for discovering and realizing things he may not have considered prior. It's all about perspective and White chronicles these ideas and themes through Stiller's main character by giving him an abundance of internal monologue, but does it more convincingly by having Brad take part in actions that provoke the progression of these thoughts. Never does Stiller's Brad feel like little more than a man complaining for the sake of complaining, but rather Brad is a guy who is having a real crisis of identity. It would be easy to dismiss Brad's Status as another of those middle-aged white guys having an existential crisis movies and that's because it is, but there is something to Brad's Status that helps it rise above those kinds of dismissive criticisms by being the movie that acknowledges it's about white people problems and owns up to it. Everyone has problems, some obviously vary in degree of severity and repercussion size, but everyone has problems and issues they have to deal with and to each and every person each of their individual problems are as real as anything else. Brad takes real issue with the fact he feels he's cut himself short in this single shot at life he's been given and while White is keen to writhe just about every perspective out of this base of an idea he can what Brad's Status ultimately does is provide a way to navigate feelings of inadequacy and jealousy while coming to the realization that because everyone has their own problems that those who make Brad feel inadequate or jealous likely aren't aware of as much because they have their own things they're dealing with that their social media doesn't show.    

First Trailer for Woody Allen's WONDER WHEEL

To be honest, it felt a little strange not having a Woody Allen movie to catch up with this August or September and I wondered, only momentarily, if the writer/director had become so busy with his Amazon series, Crisis in Six Scenes, that the toll had become too much and he simply wouldn't be able to keep up with his regular output of a feature a year. Of course, as soon as I googled to see the status of the almost eighty-two year-old's latest projects I remembered that I'd heard rumblings of the fact he was working with Justin Timberlake on a new project and, of course, that project would end up being Allen's 2017 feature titled Wonder Wheel. The film, which stars Timberlake as a lifeguard on Coney Island during the 1950's, tells the story of a middle-aged carousel operator and his beleaguered wife. This first trailer seems rather in line with what we've come to expect from the auteur as of late as far as story is concerned as Allen seems to be getting extra nostalgic, or-at least-more enchanted with the idea of bringing the days of his youth back to life as four of his last seven films have taken place in the (distant) past. And while I didn't adore last year's Café Society in the way that I'd hoped I might I thought it was a fine and fun enough trifle that at least looked gorgeous. I can very much see Wonder Wheel turning out the same way as Allen has once again partnered with cinematographer Vittorio Storaro, who also shot Café Society, as well as a number of other notable movies like Apocalypse Now and Last Tango in Paris. Allen had regularly worked with Darius Khondji prior, but it seems Khondji has been booked more than usual as of late and has thus led to a new partnership that I think Allen's work is all the better for-especially when set in a specific time period of the past that calls for rose-tinted glasses in the way Allen's themes will typically line up with. And, of course, Allen is always able to wrangle up a rather stellar cast as, on top of Timberlake (who I'm still not sold on as a serious actor by the way), the film also stars Kate Winslet, John Belushi, Juno Temple, and a host of Allen regulars including Max Casella and Steve Schirripa. Wonder Wheel opens on December 1st, 2017.

Initial Reaction: Video Review - AMERICAN MADE

It's the last weekend in September and while the month may have started out rather slow it ends up being a record one as, overall, this weekend helped contribute to a massive September at the box office. Led by the new adaptation of Stephen King's IT, which delivered over 40% of the month's record $694.9 million total. This tops the previous September record that was set just two years ago in September of 2015 by almost $70 million. This final weekend of September was of some note though due to the fact it was a three-way race for first place as IT continued to perform well in its third week of release while Kingsman: The Golden Circle made a strong sophomore showing and the biggest new release of the weekend in Tom Cruise's American Made all battled it out for the top spot. As the dust settled though, the box office would see Kingsman once again take the number one spot with $16.94 million, followed closely by IT with $16.9 million, a mere $ 33,123 separating the number one and number two spots while American Made came in close behind in third with a $16.7 million debut, which might seem soft, but considering that internationally, American Made has already grossed $64.7 million since opening in late August, which includes an additional $3.8 million this weekend, and a likely domestic run of around $55 million-that's not too shabby for a straight drama that's biggest selling point was it's movie star and only cost the studio $55 million. Elsewhere in the top five, The LEGO Ninjago Movie dropped 41.3% in its second weekend for an estimated $12 million. This third LEGO film now stands at only $35.5 million domestically and with an international pull of just $22.7 million this weekend and a global cume of $58 million it looks as if these LEGO movies are going to have to rely on more than just the brand itself to be successful. Finally, rounding out the top five is Sony's Flatliners, a $19 million remake of the 1990 film that starred Kiefer Sutherland, Kevin Bacon, Julia Roberts, Billy Baldwin, and Oliver Platt and now stars Ellen Page, Nina Dobrev, Diego Luna, Kiersey Clemons, James Norton, and Sutherland once again (but as a different character). The remake struggled to break-out delivering only an estimated $6.7 million three-day total or more than $3 million shy of the now twenty-seven year-old original. 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!