John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum Review

Director Chad Stehelski and Keanu Reeves Continue to Up Their Game in this Third Installment as the Action is More Impressive than Ever.

Avengers: Endgame Review

This Season Finale for the MCU brings to a Conclusion one of the Greatest Experiments in Cinematic History with as Much Grace and Satisfaction as One Could Hope.

POKÉMON Detective Pikachu Review

The First Live-Action Pokémon Film Sports a Beautiful Aesthetic and some Fun Moments, but the Story Undoes Much of this Work.

The Intruder Review

Dennis Quaid Takes a Turn Into B-Movie Territory as a Maniac who Can't Seem to Let the Past Go.

Long Shot Review

Seth Rogen and Charlize Theron Deliver Their Version of the Romantic Comedy with some Political Commentary on the Side.

First Trailer for TERMINATOR: DARK FATE Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger

The Terminator franchise may be one of the most nonsensical franchises in film history given they’ve gone back (in) time and time again to try and make a successful sequel to the first two films that have always been regarded as some of the best action filmmaking of all time. People seem to be making a big deal out of Terminator: Dark Fate in that this latest attempt to capitalize on the IP that is Arnold Schwarzenegger‘s bread and butter by saying James Cameron is finally returning to the franchise, but I seem to clearly remember Cameron endorsing Terminator: Genisys four years ago. In regards to that exaggerated attempt at redirecting the franchise altogether I actually enjoyed it more than most. I know we had Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines which isn’t as bad as people say as well as Terminator: Salvation which is as bad as people, and then there’s Genisys which just seemed doomed from the get-go. With Dark Fate, Cameron brought on Deadpool director Tim Miller to try and finally make the definitive sequel to Terminator 2: Judgment Day by pulling the same stunt as last year’s Halloween and wiping clean the slate of everything that came after that second film. All of this taken into consideration it seems there is no real reason to have any hope or optimism for this latest re-boot, but the presence of Linda Hamilton does count for a lot. Hamilton, who hasn't been involved in a Terminator property since Judgment Day, is back as Sarah Connor in what more or less looks like a re-hash of the first film with a little bit of action and certain character designs from the second film thrown in for good measure. That said, one has to imagine Hamilton liked something about the script as she’s obviously turned down pretty good pay days before when the screenplay clearly wasn’t up to par. And while some of this looks to be treading familiar ground for the sake of satisfying the core fan base I have enough faith in Miller and the writing team that includes Charles Eglee (who created the Cameron-produced TV series Dark Angel), Josh Friedman (who created the TV series The Sarah Connor Chronicles), David Goyer (Man of Steel), and Justin Rhodes (Grassroots) to be optimistic enough this could turn out to be what everyone has hoped every Terminator film would be since Judgment Day. Only time will tell, but in the meantime I’ll keep trying to convince people Genisys isn’t as bad as they think it is. Terminator: Dark Fate also stars Mackenzie Davis, Natalia Reyes, Gabriel Luna, Diego Boneta, and opens on November 1st, 2019.

Tavern Talk: Video Review - JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 3 - PARABELLUM

John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum ended it's first weekend with a total of $56.8 million dollars or $15 million more than the first John Wick made in its entire domestic run. That is to say, Keanu Reeves' latest franchise is more than on the upswing and puts the exceptional assassin in the same league as fellow action franchises like Mission: Impossible, Taken, and even with 007 himself-or is at least coming dangerously close to catching him. As of Monday, John Wick 4 is scheduled to hit theaters on May 21, 2021, so there is no room for doubt as to how happy Lionsgate was with this opening especially given the budgets for each John Wick film have increased marginally in comparison to the rise in return they've garnered. While John Wick: Chapter 2 ended with $172 million worldwide (a nice improvement over the original's $89 million), Parabellum is already at almost $100 million worldwide after only five days of release and will, in all likelihood pass the second film's final worldwide take with its domestic take alone if not come within throwing distance. As for Avengers: Endgame, it earned $29.4 million (-54%) over the weekend to bring its 24-day total to $770.8 million. This number puts it over the total domestic gross of Avatar ($760 million) to make it the second-biggest domestic earner of all time, but behind Star Wars: The Force Awakens at $937 million (which it seems nothing will ever be able to compete with). Worldwide, the MCU flick has now earned $2.615 billion and is $173 million away from beating Avatar to become the biggest movie of all time. In other words, this one is going to come down to the wire, folks. Furthermore, Pokémon: Detective Pikachu dropped 56% in its second weekend for a $24.815 total bringing its ten-day total to $94 million. The film scored another $56 million overseas, a 50% drop from last weekend for a now $287.4 million global cume putting it in a position to overtake Warcraft ($433 million worldwide) as the "biggest video game movie ever". The other new releases this week, A Dog's Journey and The Sun is Also a Star both disappointed with the sequel to A Dog's Purpose earning just $8 million over the weekend (as compared to the first film's $17 million opening) while the teen romance based on a YA novel starring two recognizable and incredibly good-looking people from popular TV shows simply couldn't translate into dollars as the film opened outside the top five at number eight with only $2.6 million. Given the film opened on 2,073 screens, this will likely end up falling into the disappointing category of having opened on over 2,000 screens yet still making less than $10 million domestic. 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!

Official Trailer for THE ART OF RACING IN THE RAIN


In what could be seen as the next big trend in Hollywood we have yet another talking dog picture that guides us through the life of their owner this time featuring Kevin Costner as the pretentious, but completely pleasing puppy. While Sony and Universal have chosen to produce film adaptations of author W. Bruce Cameron's series of books about dogs finding their purposes and their way home, 20th Century Fox has instead decided to go with an adaptation of The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein in which a dog named Enzo recalls the life lessons he has learned from his race car driving owner, Denny. Milo Ventimiglia plays Denny Swift in the film and though I've never seen a single episode of This is Us certainly seems to be playing on that shows audience to try and give his film career a boost as The Art of Racing in the Rain and Fox have no qualms about sporting the fact this is the same studio that brought you the heart-wrenching Marley & Me. In other words, they know exactly what they're doing and I honestly can't be that mad about it given my appreciation for that Owen Wilson/Jennifer Aniston tear-jerker and the fact this trailer sports more seemingly authentic moments in than all of any of those other Dog's Purpose films that set their premise on the idea of canine reincarnation. In fact, The Art of Racing in the Rain looks to be a more traditional reaffirmation of appreciating the little things in life as conveyed through the eyes of a spectator to Denny’s journey of life, love, and loss who undoubtedly appreciates all of it more those of us who become so wrapped up in what needs and has to be done that we forget to appreciate what we do. This is all well and good and will naturally move those who are suckered into watching it all the way to tears, but I'm anxious to see just how much more genuine this feels as opposed to Purpose or if we're operating in the same type of schmaltzy melodrama realm as those other, recent film where our hero is a witty and philosophically sophisticated dog. Directed by Simon Curtis (My Week with Marilyn) and written by Mark Bomback (War for the Planet of the ApesThe Art of Racing in the Rain also stars Amanda Seyfried, Ryan Kiera Armstrong, Gary Cole, Kathy Baker, Martin Donovan, and opens on August 9th, 2019.

JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 3 - PARABELLUM Review

It's been five years in real time, but in the life of John Wick (the entirely endearing Keanu Reeves) the man has had one hell of a month - if that. From losing his wife to losing the puppy his wife bought him to killing the son of the mob boss that killed his dog and stole his car leading him back into a life he only thought he'd left behind. In this ill-fated scenario, Mr. Wick found himself dealing with more and more repercussions of his actions to the point that at the end of the second film he was so filled with rage that he would seemingly never be able to forgive anyone who dared cross him again...much less himself for having allowed his life to slip back into these old routines. So filled with rage, in fact, that he broke the only rules he'd ever had to follow thus forcing the hand of his powerful friend, Winston (Ian McShane), the owner of the grounds on which Wick had broken said rules of the league of extraordinary assassins that he was assigned the label of "excommunicado" therefore placing a $14 million price tag on his head and an army of bounty-hunting killers on his trail. These are the kinds of things that happen when one kills a member of a shadowy international assassin's guild though, not to mention a member who was seated at what is referred to as the "High Table". John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum begins with the stakes as high as they've ever been-even Wick's closest friends are unable to look past the bounty in order to give this broken man another chance. It is in this scenario and current mental state the character inhabits that make it fairly critical to have seen the previous films in director Chad Stehelski's now trilogy of films. Parabellum kind of assumes we're present in the theater because we're already invested in the character and then moves forward with such a momentum that there's little time to catch-up if you're not already in it. That said, the pacing is not just an excuse to continually grow the breakneck speed of the action as well as the scope, but is more a stylistic choice that every function of the script adheres to and if the John Wick trilogy has done one thing consistently it's adhere to stylistic choices. As the series has progressed more layers have been added, but never have these brought the story, character development, or action beats down. Rather, each of these elements necessary to making a feature motion picture are held to the same standards the action is. That isn't to say the dialogue is as Shakespearian as the action, but does it function so as to effectively elicit the intended visceral reaction of the audience? Damn straight.

Official Trailer for ANGEL HAS FALLEN Starring Gerard Butler

In the wake of John Wick 3 opening this weekend why not remind the world Gerard Butler also has an action franchise that is about to now become a trilogy all thanks to the fact it was lucky enough to open three months prior to White House Down (the superior Die Hard knock-off of 2013) and suck out all the air from the “protect the president” premise. While I certainly would have preferred to see director Roland Emmerich (Independence Day, The Day After Tomorrow) be given an excuse-and a budget-to explore how Channing Tatum and Jamie Foxx’s chemistry might have carried over into multiple films more so than I’ve enjoyed seeing Butler bounce from scenario to scenario and director to director just so Lionsgate might have an excuse to make some money in the off season months, this is the reality we live in. With this trilogy capper, Angel Has Fallen, the studio has brought in writer/director Ric Roman Waugh who didn’t pen this script, but has apparently been writing and making films for over twenty years with his most notable feature being Snitch, the Dwayne Johnson-led action picture from 2013 about a dad who goes undercover for the DEA in order to free his son. In Angel Has Fallen, Butler’s Secret Service Agent Mike Banning is framed for the attempted assassination of the President and must evade his own agency and the FBI as he tries to uncover the real threat. Also of note is the fact Morgan Freeman is now President in this universe as Freeman previously played the Speaker of the House who acted as President in the original and was promoted to VP in London Has Fallen though I wonder why Aaron Eckhart didn't care to return for another round as President Benjamin Asher. Whatever the case may be, it seems this thing will do well enough in its late summer release to muster up a few interested parties who have seen everything else and care just enough to know what Mike Banning if not Gerard Butler is up to these days. Angel Has Fallen also stars Jada Pinkett Smith, Lance Reddick, Tim Blake Nelson, Piper Perabo, Nick Nolte, Danny Huston, and opens on August 23rd, 2019.

Tavern Talk: Video Review - POKÉMON DETECTIVE PIKACHU

This week on TAVERN TALK by Initial Reaction we reviewed Warner Brothers Pokémon Detective Pikachu starring Justice Smith and featuring the voice work of Ryan Reynolds, but as far as box office is concerned the story was whether or not this internationally adored brand would be able to knock-off Avengers: Endgame in its third weekend of release. Ultimately, Endgame did end up dropping a little more than expected, but was still able to maintain the top spot over the weekend, holding off a record start for a video game adaptation from Detective Pikachu. With an estimated $63 million weekend, Endgame now has a domestic total that stood at $723.5 million as of Sunday and has, as of today, now earned $734.1 million in just nineteen days of domestic release. Endgame is only the third film ever to top $700 million domestically as it passed Black Panther ($700 million) to become the third highest grossing domestic release of all-time. Endgame will pass Avatar's $760 million domestic total by Saturday if not by Friday of this week to become the second highest grossing domestic release of all-time, but that number one spot held by The Force Awakens with $936 million is seeming less and less likely. On the international side of things, Endgame added another $102.3 million for a $1.76 billion international cume and a global total of $2.485 billion. This means the film remains the second highest grossing international and worldwide release ever, trailing Avatar in both categories by $302 million worldwide and $265 million. Avatar still sits atop the worldwide chart with $2.788 billion and given Endgame will, at the very least, seemingly finish its domestic run with around $850 million it feels like asking for another $200 million internationally throughout the rest of its theatrical run shouldn't be a big deal. Time will tell though. Finishing in second, Detective Pikachu earned $54 million over its first weekend and has, as of today, passed $63 million domestically making it likely to pass the $200 million worldwide mark before going into its second weekend of release. The adaptation of the 2016 video game, which itself is based on the massively popular Pokemon franchise, delivered the largest opening weekend for a video game adaptation topping 2001's Lara Croft Tomb Raider ($47.7m). Meanwhile, The Hustle lived up to expectations ($13 million), but Poms ($5.4 million) and Disney's release of the Fox Searchlight drama, Tolkien ($2.2 million), both struggled in their debuts while The Intruder ($6.6 million) and Long Shot ($6.1 million) hung on better than expected, both remaining in the top five. As always, be sure to follow the official Tavern Talk YouTube channel as well as on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter where you can find a new review (or reviews) each week!

Teaser Trailer for MALEFICENT: MISTRESS OF EVIL Starring Angelina Jolie

First of all, it will have been over five years since the first Maleficent was released by the time this oddly scheduled sequel arrives in theaters. Was anyone clamoring for this? Doubt it, but the more pressing question might be did anyone really care for the first one? I mean is there a large enough pocket of the population who were eleven in 2014 that are now sixteen and are just beside themselves with the fact they're finally getting a Maleficent sequel? For one reason or another, I just don't tend to believe that to be the case. And yet, here we are as this Halloween season Angelina Jolie along with much of the original cast (which feels surprising) return to stir up a little more trouble in their fantasy land for, as the slowed-down version of the popular song tells us in the trailer, this is the "season of the with." With a screenplay from Linda Woolverton (which would typically be encouraging given her involvement in that golden age of 90's Disney animation, but has become tainted by the fact she also wrote the predecessor to this as well as Alice Through the Looking Glass) the Mouse House took one-half of the Kon Tiki team in Joachim Rønning that they picked up to direct that fifth Pirates movie a few years back and slapped him on this CG-fueled project next with hopes that even if this follow-up doesn't necessarily perform as well as the original it will at least make its budget back and then some as well as having something of a kinder critical reception a la Dead Men Tell No Tales. To this point, that first Maleficent film did bank $758 million worldwide ($241 domestic) on a $180 million budget, so assuming they dropped the budget slightly on this one they should be in fine hands to make a couple extra bucks this fall. Still, even if this unnecessary and unwarranted sequel completely bombs it's not like it will be anything more than a blip on Disney's financial report in a year that also features three Marvel movies, a Star Wars film (and the end of the current saga at that!), the "live-action" The Lion King, and Toy Story 4. Come what may, Maleficent: Mistress of Evil also stars Michelle Pfeiffer, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Sam Riley, Harris Dickinson, Ed Skrein, Imelda Staunton, Juno Temple, Lesley Manville, and opens on October 18th, 2019.

POKÉMON DETECTIVE PIKACHU Review

It's still difficult for me to wrap my brain around the fact that despite countless video games and other IP adaptations over the years that Pokémon has somehow eluded becoming a big screen, live-action event film until this weekend. I can remember Christmas of '99 and getting a Game Boy Color that had to be shared between myself and my siblings with each of us wanting to play our respective Pokémon games at the same time whether that was the red version I received or the blue version my brother did. This was my first real encounter with the world of Pokémon after which I enjoyed collecting the cards more so than I did necessarily playing the actual game. And then there was of course the animated series which led to a couple of animated feature-length films and some Nintendo 64 games (Pokémon Stadium was legit!), but in retrospect it all felt more like a fad that came and went rather quickly in the scheme of things. After the Pokémon roster started expanding past that original one hundred and fifty characters and through to a few years back when the brand re-claimed its dominance over the market with Pokémon GO-the interactive mobile game that had you feeling like you were actually catching Pokémon in the wild-I'd been more or less out of the loop. Moreover, despite how far-reaching Pokémon continued to be, I simply couldn't muster any interest in the multi-format craze; the individual facets of it seeming as widespread as the next and each with as dedicated a fan base as the next. What was I missing? With this in mind, one can imagine my initial response to the news Warner Bros. was hiring Ryan Reynolds to voice Pikachu in a live-action adaptation of one of the newer video games that dealt with this fan-favorite Poké-creature becoming a detective. In short, it sounded like a really dumb idea that could in no way translate to the big screen in any type of credible manner that might pull in an audience beyond the already initiated and the Deadpool 3 screenwriters. Rather, it felt as if it would probably end up going the route of those Alvin and the Chipmunk or Smurf movies where no one actually cared about them and the only people who saw them were children whose parents needed eighty-eight minutes of repose over the weekend. This was, of course, until the first trailer arrived lending the feature the favor of clearly being a more creative endeavor than those aforementioned cash before quality adaptations. This is to say there was evidence of a certain level of care given in the creation of Pokémon Detective Pikachu as the trailer and subsequent execution of the film illustrates both a style and ambition in developing this world that means to both fulfill the fan base as well as weave this strange attraction from the uninitiated by being just weird enough to be engaging; by being unabashedly unusual, but undeniably interesting.

Teaser Trailer for IT: CHAPTER TWO

The success of the first half of director Andy Muschietti’s adaptation of Stephen King's IT afforded him the luxury of an A-list ensemble and plenty of time to develop and shoot this sequel we kind of already knew was happening even before that first film blew all expectations out of the water; going on to score the largest opening weekend for an R-rated movie ever, then continuing to perform week after week ultimately taking in over $700 million worldwide. Jessica Chastain, James McAvoy, and Bill Hader lead the cast of IT: Chapter Two as the sequel picks up with the characters from the first film as adults twenty-seven years later. While not too much is known about the follow-up just yet, we obviously know from the book and previous mini-series that a devastating phone call brings "The Losers Club" back together and back to Derry, Maine. In speaking with Entertainment Weekly Pennywise himself, Bill Skarsgård, stated that, "The arc of the first movie is that he, for the first time, experiences fear himself,” which could certainly mean the character might go in one of two drastically different directions, but it seems rather than sulk back into the darkness from which he came Pennywise will be seeking revenge as Skarsgård reiterated that this encounter with fear, "fuels hatred and anger towards the kids, who will be adults in this one, so I think there might be an even more vicious Pennywise. He’s really going after it.” While I've never read Stephen King's novel and  only saw the 1990 miniseries in the lead-up to the release of the 2017 film, this set of films (and maybe this simply comes from the precedent the sheer size of the book sets) quickly established themselves as separate from the pack of your typical trash horror flicks. Muschietti’s approach seemed to carry the objective of being more illustrious than usual and in pulling off this level of grandeur in that first film there is only more reason to be excited for what this final product might deliver thematically. Along with Skarsgård McAvoy, Chastain, and Hader IT: Chapter Two will also star Javier Botet, Xavier Dolan, James Ransone, Andy Bean, Troy James, Jay Ryan, Jake Weary, Jess Weixler as well as seeing the return of Jaeden Lieberher, Finn Wolfhard, Jack Dylan Grazer, Sophia Lillis, Chosen Jacobs, and Jeremy Ray Taylor. The film is scheduled to open September 6th, 2019.

Tavern Talk: Video Review - LONG SHOT

This week on TAVERN TALK by Initial Reaction we reviewed the new Seth Rogen/Charlize Theron film, Long Shot, but it was always something of a given in regards to box office that the discussion would still be centered around Avengers: Endgame. In just twelve days of global release Endgame has already become the second largest worldwide release of all-time, passing Titanic, as it topped $2 billion globally and delivered over $619 million at the domestic box office. As far as weekend two on the domestic from goes though, Endgame finished with $147.4 million coming in just shy of the record $149.2 million second weekend for Star Wars: The Force Awakens, but even without that record Endgame has now grossed nearly $620 million at the domestic box office, already ranking as the ninth largest domestic release of all-time per BoxOfficeMojo. Just how high will Endgame climb? While it seems difficult to pinpoint exactly at this pace a domestic gross topping $900 million no longer seems out of the question and neither does Avatar's all-time global box office record of $2.8 billion. Globally, Endgame currently sits at $2.188 billion, trailing Avatar by $600 million though it should be noted Endgame topped $2 billion worldwide in its eleventh day of release while it took Avatar 47 days to reach this milestone. That said, Avatar had an open field after the holiday season and the typical doldrums of January and February at the movies while the competition for Endgame will begin to ramp-up this week with Pokémon Detective Pikachu with the summer movie season kicking into high-gear every week after that. Unfortunately, Long Shot couldn't even grab the runner-up position as Screen Gems' The Intruder starring Dennis Quaid, Michael Ealy, and Meagan Goode, which delivered an estimated $11 million on an $8 million budget. In third is where we find Lionsgate's Long Shot coming in at the lower end of expectations, delivering an estimated $10 million debut. While the film was the best reviewed title among new releases this weekend interest either didn't seem all that high or Endgame was simply too much of a juggernaut to be meddled with. Receiving a "B" CinemaScore and having to compete with the likes of other female-skewing releases such as The Hustle and Poms this weekend over Mother's Day likely won't help the film either. Internationally, Long Shot did open in twenty-two markets with an estimated $3.3 million. The other new wide release of the week, STX's UglyDolls, took in an estimated $8.5 million from 3,652 theaters for a soft, $2,330 per theater average and on a $45 million budget no less. 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! 

Official Trailer for SPIDER-MAN: FAR FROM HOME

It's been quite the last couple of weeks for Marvel Studios with Avengers: Endgame opening to shatter every kind of box office record imaginable and becoming a cultural phenomenon in the process only to now, two weekends into that film's release, deliver a new, full trailer for what was previously thought to be a nice little palette cleanser after Endgame, but looks to be much more than originally anticipated: Spider-Man: Far From Home. Far From Home was carrying this facade of being only what Ant-Man and the Wasp was last summer post-Infinity War, meaning it was more a stand-alone adventure than anything that necessarily integrated the character into the bigger world, but given this spoilerific Endgame trailer Sony just spilled all over Marvel, it looks like Tom Holland's Peter Parker is about to step-up to become the next Tony Stark. Not only this though, but the fact the trailer explicitly states there will still be repercussions from "the decimation" and that all wasn't tied up with a pretty bow given the events of Endgame thus giving birth to the idea of a "multiverse" is truly insane and opens up all kinds of possibilities about what could happen in the future and how the MCU will be changing as it moves into this new era. Given the events of Endgame and the fact we haven't known until this trailer whether or not Far From Home would take place after or before the events of Infinity War, this is all a pretty big shock to the system. It was always going to be a tricky task to market a film featuring a character that supposedly "died" three movies prior, but we are now living in a post-Endgame world where the rules have changed, but more importantly-the characters are changing with it and while we knew Samuel L. Jackson would be back as Nick Fury it's good to see him still thriving and with just as much gusto as he had when he showed up in the post-credits of that first Iron Man movie eleven years ago. Jon Watts returns to direct this sequel that will see Peter Parker and his friends, including Zendaya's MJ and Jacob Batalon's Ned, going on a summer vacation to Europe where Peter and co. find themselves in a plot with Jake Gyllenhaal's Mysterio. Spider-Man: Far From Home also stars Cobie Smulders, Marisa Tomei, Jon Favreau, Michael Keaton, Angourie Rice, Martin Starr, Tony Revolori, J.B. Smoove, and opens on July 2nd, 2019.

LONG SHOT Review

Pairing schlubby, messy men with women who are out of their league in regards to looks if not always intelligence is not a new concept or novel idea, but it is something that has been done to the point that, to do it again without any sense of awareness would in and of itself feel like a parody. This is why Long Shot immediately placing this same situation in the realm of political campaigning-where outward appearance and perception is critical-is what makes re-visiting this trope both funny and worthwhile. Rogen, who rarely seems to work from a concept or screenplay where he's not involved in some capacity has thrown himself at the mercy of screenwriters Dan Sterling (The Office, The Interview) and Liz Hannah (The Post) as well as frequent collaborator, director Jonathan Levine (50/50, The Night Before). This R-rated romantic comedy not only deals with your typical conundrums of opposites attracting, falling in love, and making it work in the face of what societal expectations tell our characters they should ascend or not ascend to, but it also gets into the weeds when it comes to our current political climate and is able to round out both of these objects of very strong affections with the idea that one shouldn't compromise their desires or feelings towards a topic or person just because some people may not approve of them. It's been nearly fifteen years since movie-going audiences were introduced to Rogen's disoriented stoner/slacker of a caricature and in that time Rogen has managed to somehow both mature yet remain the same. There is a natural level of humor Rogen brings to his projects that is gleaned simply from the actor laughing at a joke either he or another character has made. Whether Rogen is working with the likes of Judd Apatow, someone like Levine, or writing and directing with creative partner Evan Goldberg each pairing seems to always find a way to carefully balance the vulgarity and gross out gags that are inevitable with a sweetness and sincerity in story that reassures the audience there is more here than dick and drug jokes.

First Trailer for SONIC THE HEDGEHOG

The first trailer for the upcoming Sonic the Hedgehog movie has been released and well...it's actually a movie. The film, based on the video game franchise first released in 1991 and originally conceived by Sega to replace Alex Kidd to compete with Nintendo's Mario as their main mascot, the game went on to become uber-successful spawning many sequels and helping define Sega as one of the leading video game companies during the golden 16-bit era. Like other video games of this heyday, Sonic has crossed many platforms and animated series, comic books, and no doubt countless other media adaptations, but never has the character had its own feature film production...until now. In a move that feels like it's being made twenty or maybe even twenty-five years too late, Paramount has decided to follow suit per Warner Bros. new Pokemon movie and give birth to beloved video game character in the real world where they look like real animals and function as members of our present society. Enough about how everything about this film seems to be working against it though, as the screenplay from Patrick Casey and Josh Miller (a duo with nothing but what seem to National Lampoon knock-offs on their resume) is being directed by Jeff Fowler (making his feature debut after having served in the visual effect dept. on Where the Wild Things Are) with the story following Sonic (voice of Ben Schwartz) as he tries to save the world alongside human pal, Tom (James Marsden), to stop the villainous Dr. Robotnik (Jim Carrey). While the involvement of someone like Carrey in a role that is literally a cartoon come to life is enough to be intriguing the film otherwise doesn't look to be doing anything outside of what that string of "live-action" Alvin and the Chipmunks films did a few years back. I imagine Sonic is about as hot right now as the Chipmunks were in 2007, but at least they had a Christmas special to bank on. It will be interesting to see how this one plays out and if the quality of the film can actually rise above the inherent cynicism that comes with its existence at the moment. Sonic the Hedgehog also stars Tika Sumpter, Natasha Rothwell, Neal McDonough, Adam Pally, and opens on November 8th, 2019.

On DVD & Blu-Ray: April 30, 2019

Tavern Talk: Video Review - AVENGERS: ENDGAME

The question was never going to be whether or not Avengers: Endgame would top the box office, but rather by how large of a margin it would win the top spot at the box office. Well, not only did Endgame come in at No.1 over the weekend, but it decimated all kinds of records by delivering the largest opening weekend of all-time, both domestically and globally, with a three-day domestic gross totaling an estimated $350 million and a global weekend over $1.2 billion. That's $350 million domestic in three days of release and $1.2 billion (with a "B") globally in its first five days overcoming its predecessor, Avengers: Infinity War, to become the fastest grossing movie to reach a billion as it took Infinity War a whole eleven days to accomplish this feat. BoxOfficeMojo provided a nice list of records that Endgame broke over its opening weekend which is included in the hyperlink, but while Disney and Marvel Studios are no doubt celebrating this huge win they might also be celebrating a little extra as not only did they have the No. 1 film in the world, but the No. 2 film at the domestic Box Office as Captain Marvel received a favorable Avengers bump as, in its eighth week of release, the film dipped only -10% for an estimated $8 million three-day run placing it over $413 million at the domestic box office while adding over $2 million internationally for a worldwide weekend that topped $10 million and a global cume that now stands at $1.11 billion. To date, the Marvel Cinematic Universe's twenty-two films have now grossed over $19.8 billion worldwide, of which nine have topped $1 billion at the global box office. Not too shabby. For the rest of the films this weekend though, the news wasn't so great. The Curse of La Llorona dipped -72% for an estimated $7.5 million weekend, Breakthrough landed in third place, dipping -44% for a  $6.3 million weekend, while Shazam! brought in an estimated $5.5 million (-66%) as it entered its fourth week in release. This Friday will see the release of three new films including STX'a first original animated feature in Uglydolls, the Seth Rogen/Charlize Theron comedy Long Shot from Lionsgate and Summit, as well as Screen Gems' Dennis Quaid-thriller, The Intruder, but don't expect anything to surpass Endgame for that top spot just yet. 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!

AVENGERS: ENDGAME Review

The culmination of eleven years and twenty-two films worth of story, Avengers: Endgame brings to a conclusion one of the greatest experiments in cinematic history and does so with as much grace and satisfaction as one might hope or expect a single moment to capture. That isn't to say there aren't a few hiccups along the way, but what is here to complain about feels so quaint in comparison to what the film gets right that they hardly seem worth mentioning. Directors Joe and Anthony Russo have achieved what felt damn near impossible leading up to the release of the film and that is to have met the loftiest of expectations. Having been invested in these films for over a decade now and experienced the highest of highs and lowest of lows with each of the key players, Endgame takes it upon itself to find both closure in and resolution to many of the biggest arcs that have-knowingly or unknowingly-been playing themselves out for much of this same time period. That is to say, while Endgame more than compensates the eager opening night audiences with its pure "fan service" finale, the casual viewer or even the small remainder of the rest of the general population that hasn’t seen a single Marvel movie-should they decide to invest themselves this late in the game-might find themselves rendered surprisingly affected in these times of great trial and potentially even greater consequence. Endgame is certainly something of its own beast in that it thrives on its own, very distinct, structure and strong individual character arcs (especially for the core group of original Avengers) and more or less functions as a stand alone piece if not a direct sequel to Infinity War; yet it is the kind of sequel audiences always complain they don't get enough of. Meaning, Endgame compliments its predecessor without replicating it in hopes of delivering the same type of fulfillment. In every sense, Endgame couldn't feel more different than the largely space-based Infinity War as that film was non-stop from the word go to the moment of the decimation. In Endgame, our titular heroes are dealing with the repercussions of this event, the fallout of certain relationships and the idea that maybe, for once, they won't actually be able to save the day.   

Tavern Talk: Video Review - THE CURSE OF LA LLORONA

As is typically the case, Easter weekend was slower than usual at the box office, but even with The Curse of La Llorona performing above expectations and coming in at number one with $26.5 million the new releases, which also included Breakthrough and Disney Nature's Penguins, couldn’t salvage movie theaters from suffering the worst Easter weekend showing in almost fifteen years. This total domestic take for the box office amassed $112 million in ticket sales, the lowest haul since 2005, according to Comscore. This decline is undoubtedly due to every studio in town refusing to open a big movie ahead of Disney and Marvel’s Avengers: Endgame, which is expected to smash every record ever set when it debuts tomorrow night. In remaining focused on this past weekend though, La Llorona also launched in seventy-one international markets and brought in an roughly $30 million for a $56.5 million global total and all on a budget of $9 million; want to know when they'll stop making movies in The Conuring-verse? When they stop making returns like this. Filling out the rest of the top five sees Shazam! in the runner-up spot, dropping only -29% in its third weekend with $17.3 million the film's domestic total now tops $121 million while another $22 million internationally this weekend pushes its overseas cume to $201.5 for a worldwide gross of more than $322 million...also not bad for a $100 million super hero production. In third place is Disney's first official Fox release with the faith-based feature Breakthrough, which opened on Wednesday and delivered $11.1 million for the three-day and $14.6 million over the five-day. The film received an "A" CinemaScore and played to an audience that was 65% female and 70% over the age of twenty-five which will make it interesting in terms of how this might will hold against the likes of Avengers as well as throughout the remainder of the "Easter season". Getting a bump from the aforementioned Avengers: Endgame, Captain Marvel came in fourth place after receiving a +6% increase over last weekend despite losing three hundred and twenty-two locations. Finally, the Universal/Regina King comedy, Little, rounded out the top five as the $20 million production dropped -45% in its second weekend with $8.45 million for a domestic cume just shy of $30 million. So, how high do you think Avengers: Endgame is going to fly? Be sure to get your predictions ready as showtimes start as early as 6 pm tomorrow and be sure to check back with Tavern Talk for full spoiler and non-spoiler reviews this weekend. 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 Ang Lee's GEMINI MAN Starring Will Smith

Paramount Pictures has released the first trailer for Ang Lee's latest directorial effort, Gemini Man, a sci-fi thriller that employs Will Smith as an assassin tasked with hunting down his younger self-a clone. While the premise may sound more than a little familiar (Looper anyone?) and it's not a great sign that the screenplay is credited to at least seven individuals this is still an Ang Lee (Brokeback Mountain, The Ice Storm) production and for that reason alone is worthy of some attention. Lee, who last won an Oscar for his directing effort on 2012's visually stunning Life of PI had a rough time with his follow-up in 2016's war drama, Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk. The filmmaker, who has always been known to push the technological limits, shot that film completely in 4K and at 120 frames-per-second, but unlike PI (at least during it's theatrical run) the film made no cultural impact and even less of a box office impact as the $40 million production barely made it past $30 million at the worldwide box office. With Gemini Man, Lee enters into a more straightforward genre picture and with a double dose of one of our most charismatic stars as Smith is pulling double duty in portraying both the younger and older versions of himself (unlike Looper) as Lee is using de-aging VFX to portray the 50-year-old Smith hunting down his 23-year-old self. All of this said, the trailer looks a little more bland than I was hoping given the team involved and the story they're telling, but the action looks to be executed in a top notch fashion (as it should coming from the guy who made Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) even if trailer trope of using a sad cover song-especially a song like “Forever Young”-really puts into perspective how kind of "behind the current" this trailer makes the movie feel despite the fact it's undoubtedly on the cutting edge of technology. Here's to hoping this is just a bad piece of marketing rather than a true indication of the final product. Gemini Man also stars Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Clive Owen, Benedict Wong, Douglas Hodge, and opens on October 11th, 2019.

On DVD & Blu-Ray: April 23, 2019

THE CURSE OF LA LLORONA Review

A horror film based on Mexican folklore about a "weeping woman" who drowned her own children in a river and is then doomed to an eternity of seeking out the children of others is, well...a pretty great set-up in story and tone as well as hinting at the natural aesthetic a movie should take. So, how hasn't this been converted into a product for profit already? Unfortunately for Hispanic culture, director Michael Chaves-in his feature directorial debut-seems to have been told to approach this from a very specific standpoint by a studio invested in a very specific vision of a cinematic universe rather than from a financier who might have allowed the filmmaker to integrate the natural inclinations the folklore would lend to a visual representation. That said, and this is somewhat ironic, The Curse of La Llorona's biggest strength is in fact its visual prowess as the narrative resorts largely to jump scares and extended sequences of as much rather than nurturing an actual story or developing actual characters. Though I haven't seen any of the shorts Chaves has directed, La Llorona feels very much in line with the visual stylings of James Wan, the originator and cultivator of this series of horror films from the same universe. In approaching such promising material from this mindset, the result is almost inevitably middle-of-the-road as it hits all of the required beats without ever making the audience dance (or squirm) to its rhythm. Furthermore, while Chaves and his team go to great lengths to nail down an atmosphere and period-specific details (like The Conjuring films, this also takes place in the 70's) much of it is in service of few to no genuine scares. There is even a general lack of creepiness as all that occurs and all that is being threatened to happen to these characters we mostly care about only because they are either children or widowed women are more broad examples of horror movie tropes than they are specific consequences of having encountered as unique a figure as the "weeping woman".

Teaser Trailer for STAR WARS: EPISODE IX - THE RISE OF SKYWALKER

It's hard to believe the monumental finale of the Skywalker saga only ranks in the middle of my ten most anticipated features this year, but after 2017's The Last Jedi both excitement and expectations have been severely tempered for this last installment. If it's not obvious already, I was not a fan of Rian Johnson's middle chapter in what is seemingly the third and final trilogy in the main series of Star Wars films as it almost irreverently disregarded everything writer/director J.J. Abrams set-up in 2015's The Force Awakens. And while Abrams is back to complete this trilogy he began four years ago one cannot help but feel much of the air has already left the room despite the fact we haven't seen a single shot or piece of footage from the upcoming film...until today. While story, character, and plot details have been incredibly mum what we did learn in today's Star Wars celebration panel is that the story does not pick up immediately after the events of TLJ and concerns the core group of new characters going on an adventure together.  Here's to hoping lowered expectations lead to greater reward. Director J.J. Abrams and Lucasfilm director Kathleen Kennedy also touched on topics such as the use of practical versus visual effects not just in this last film, but in this trilogy as a whole as well as touching on the fact that the final day of filming was emotional without going further into detail so as to seemingly avoid spoilers. Several cast members including Anthony Daniels, Lando Calrissian himself Billy Dee Williams, new generation cast members including Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Kelly Marie Tran, Joonas Suotamo, and newcomer Naomi Ackie who we now know plays a character named Jannah. The live and streaming crowds were also introduced to BB-8's new friend, Dio, a smaller droid that is distinctively cool. Adam Driver, Billie Lourd, Carrie Fisher, Lupita Nyong'o, Mark Hamill, Keri Russell, and Richard E. Grant also star. Star Wars: Episode IX - The Rise of Skywalker opens on December 20th, 2019.

HELLBOY Review

While one might expect a single-word description of how they feel coming out of something called Hellboy to be along the lines of "bewildered" or "curious" or even "confused" what it actually feels like coming out of Neil "The Descent" Marshall's 2019 re-boot of the Hellboy comic character is "numb". There is so much happening in this desperate (zero-sense making) attempt to bring Mike Mignola's comic back to the big screen in hopes of launching another new franchise that it doesn't seem anyone involved stopped long enough to actually consider what that franchise might need to look like given the context of its existence. Instead, screenwriter Andrew Crosby is throwing as many characters, subplots, flashbacks, and countless other things at the audience at once that it's overwhelming to the point of feeling nothing. That is to say, this new Hellboy fits squarely into the cliché of "everything and nothing all at once". If one were to describe Hellboy and everything the film contains it would be almost ignorant to think that what was about to come your way couldn't potentially be one of the greatest albeit most ridiculous things ever concocted while in reality it turns out to be nothing short of the definition of incoherent. And despite so much going on, nothing lands, nothing to make you-the viewer-care about anything or anyone on screen. Yes, there is technically a narrative here, but this is mostly just an excuse to exercise some cool practical make-up and prosthetic techniques as strung together through blandly executed action sequences (except for the final, epilogue scene-where is that full version of Hellboy at?!?!). It’s not all bad as David Harbour (Stranger Things), taking over for the much-loved Ron Pearlman who previously dawned the sawed-off demon horns in Guillermo del Toro’s two original films, is seemingly having a lot of fun and making the most out of having the opportunity to play the character, but his vigor isn’t near enough to justify sitting through an extended two-hour runtime for a movie that could have been streamlined into ninety-minutes of pure, horror/action schlock. This version of the comic is what it seemed Marshall wanted to make given he was granted an R-rating, but even the leaning into of the restricted rating is wasted on an excess of blood rather than being capitalized on with more creatively gruesome endeavors.

Official Trailer for Disney's "Live-Action" THE LION KING

The official trailer for director Jon Favreau's "live-action" adaptation of Disney Animation Studios 1994 classic, The Lion King, is here and...can we just talk about how fantastic the music is for a second? Hans Zimmer may now be known as Christopher Nolan's composer of choice the man has had a long history of producing movie scores and the original The Lion King is among some of his best work and that really shines here. While it's easy to be cynical about what are more or less re-makes of your childhood favorites in favor of modern technologies such as motion capture and some downright astonishing CGI over the classic hand-drawn style of animation that mine and so many generations before me were raised on it's also hard to deny the beauty and scope of what Favreau has seemingly been able to accomplish here. As with the filmmaker’s The Jungle Book, Favreau's take on The Lion King will feature a mix of CGI and live-action techniques; the tangible environments only making the CGI, but wholly convincing animals all the more real. The moment that music breaks in though, I dare anyone born between 1985 and 2000 to try and not be won over by what this movie might potentially bring to the table as the majesty and wonder these songs capture along with the pure spectacle these visuals provide will seemingly give audiences plenty to chew on even if the narrative is known. Also of note is the fact Elton John returned to re-record some of his original music for this updated version collaborating with cast member, Beyonce Knowles Carter, in the process; it seems as if the Rocketman will be having quite the summer. The Lion King will also feature the voice work of Donald Glover, Seth Rogen, Eric Andre, Billy Eichner, Alfre Woodard, James Earl Jones, John Oliver, Keegan-Michael Key, Chiwetel Ejiofor, John Kani, and opens on July 19th, 2019.

Tavern Talk: Video Review - SHAZAM! & PET SEMATARY

April is off to a solid start as Warner Bros. and New Line secured the top spot in both the domestic and worldwide marketplace with Shazam! while Paramount's release of Pet Sematary scored the second largest opening for a Stephen King adaptation. Shazam! delivered just above expectations with an estimated $53.4 million for a cumulative total of $56.7 million after grosses from March Fandango events are factored in. The film received an "A" CinemaScore with males making up 57% of the crowd and 55% of the opening weekend audience coming in aged 25 and over. It will be interesting to see how Shazam! plays over the next few weeks given both the positive word of mouth and how far it might be able to climb ($200 million anyone?) ahead of the April 26 opening of Avengers: Endgame. Shazam! also garnered an estimated $102 million from 79 international markets as the film opened day-and-date in virtually all overseas territories. In second place, Pet Sematary delivered an estimated $25 million, which is about what was expected from the new King adaptation given its $21 million production budget. However, the film did receive a "C+" CinemaScore which may not bode well for the film in the upcoming weeks given the new Hellboy opens this weekend and can sub as both a fun popcorn comic flick as well as a horror movie. Time will tell, but in holdover news Disney's Dumbo opened in third, dropping a massive -60% in just its second weekend with an estimated $18.2 million, bringing the film's domestic take to over $76 million against a $170 million production budget. Jordan Peele's Us from Universal took a -58% dip in its third weekend for a total of $152 million thus allowing it to enter the ranks of the top five R-rated horror films ever. Us also added another $10.3 million internationally as its global cume now sits at over $216 million. Rounding out the top five is Marvel Studios Captain Marvel with an estimated $12.68 million; the MCU film has now topped $374 million at the domestic box office with a global cume that now stands at $1.037 billion, moving it into top 30 all-time ranking. The other new release of the week, STX's The Best of Enemies, fell a bit below expectations and outside of the top five with an estimated $4.5 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!

PET SEMATARY Review

As with 2017's IT, this year's adaptation of Stephen King's 1983 novel is an update of an earlier adaptation that has a loyal fan base born of the generation in which King also penned these horror stories. Is this to say those original, filmed adaptations were more in tune with King's stories than today's updates? I couldn't say specifically in regards to IT or Pet Sematary as I haven't had the nerve to open either of those books, but while 1989's Pet Sematary and 1990's IT miniseries undoubtedly share a certain kindred spirit with King’s novels these current re-imaginings operate on a grander scale of sorts-idolizing the source material in a way that translates these stories in more epic terms to the screen. King’s emotionally-driven, character-based work tends to use the horror genre more as a mask for saying what he wants to say which would seem to account for why King’s work has always operated in being more vividly unsettling than straight up scary, but the themes of Pet Sematary are really dark...even for King. Though I have no personal connection or nostalgic ties to either King’s original novel or the original 1989 movie adaptation I tend to be intrigued if not by the premises of King’s works, but for the emotional investment they are able to create through this aforementioned character work. This is why IT ultimately worked so well two years ago for despite having a terrifying clown at the center it was the group of kids and their personal stories as well as the dynamics between them that allowed the movie to work and to be about things besides Pennywise. In directing duo Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer’s new take on King’s material, there is certainly no fear of going as far as is necessary to evoke the grief that comes along with dealing in loss and more specifically-the loss of a child. Kölsch and Widmyer undoubtedly create a sense of dread from the beginning playing the titular location in a way King would be proud as this sense of dread is not only represented in the literal manifestation of this burial ground, but of the reach it has into the lives of those that both live near and/or meddle in it. An interesting concept and fitting approach, no doubt, but while the emotions are as raw as the aesthetic approach it is a lack of connection to these character’s-especially Jason Clarke’s withdrawn nature despite his character’s actions-that give Pet Sematary a strong sense of purpose if not the lasting, devastating impact it seems pre-disposed to possess.

SHAZAM! Review

Shazam! immediately sets itself apart from its comic book brethren by opening the film not with a flashback to that of the titular heroes origin, but to that of the origin of its main villain; an antagonist that very easily could have been the protagonist and caused this story to be quite different had one slight outcome been different. Maybe slight is the wrong word as Mark Strong's Dr. Sivana takes a certain defeat to heart and dedicates his life from this point on to figuring out why he wasn't worthy of dawning the Shazam suit. The point being, director David F. Sandberg (Lights Out, Annabelle Creation) and screenwriter Henry Gayden (Earth to Echo) begin their movie by filling in the blanks of the bad guy and immediately set-up the audience with an understanding and empathy as to how the rest of the events we see unfold do in fact unfold in the manner they do. This is a key ingredient in a recipe that is repeated so often these days with so many super hero and comic book films saturating the market. Such is the case that filmmakers, studio heads, and whole creative teams alike have essentially been forced to find ways to differentiate their hero from the next studio's hero. While personally, I'm as sincere a fan of both sides of the studio rivals as I could imagine to be Shazam! does a pretty damn good job of making a full-length, fun feature out of what could arguably be one of the corniest super heroes ever put to panel. Shazam is a super hero that is actually a kid and is costumed like a hero out of a 1940's serial series wearing his cape with pride and his spandex with dignity as the large, luminescent lightning bolt that is the symbol of his heroism shines brightly at the costume's core. While most modern super hero films will tend to dial back the costumes that graced the pages of the source material so as to ground the film and the character in more of a familiar reality, Shazam! embraces the corniness whole-heartily and then balances it with a true threat in the aforementioned villain, true tension in that villain's master plan, and real stakes that aren't cataclysmic in nature, but more personal both in relation to the characters we come to know and invest in as well as in making the film feel more like a small movie made for a specific group of people rather than the big movie that appeals to everyone it so very clearly is.

Teaser Trailer for JOKER Starring Joaquin Phoenix

Joaquin Phoenix enters the super hero genre with what is probably the only role he could have ever entered into the genre with: the Joker. While Phoenix was a ripe thirty-four in 2008 and could have more than capably played this same role in Chistopher Nolan's groundbreaking The Dark Knight it is hard to argue anything less than kismet that Heath Ledger took that role and now eleven years later Phoenix is working with a filmmaker more his speed in a film solely dedicated to the character. Despite his films typically receiving more negative press than unanimous praise, I've been a fan of director Todd Phillips since he knocked me out with a double dose of Frat Pack greatness in 2003 and 2004 in Old School and Starsky & Hutch before going on to become better known for his Hangover trilogy. While that trilogy may have become more and more mediocre over the course of three films in terms of story, they vastly improved Phillips' cinematic eye while the filmmaker's subversive take on the material at least led to interesting outlets. And while the character of the Joker arguably will suffer more than he might prosper from an origin story, with a screenplay by Phillips and Scott Silver (The Fighter) along with a cast that features the likes of not only Phoenix, but Robert De Niro, Brian Tyree Henry, Zazie Beetz, Shea Whigham, Frances Conroy, Brett Cullen, Marc Maron, Bill Camp, and Bryan Callen it's hard to argue one isn't at least intrigued by the promise if not excited by the idea. Furthermore, can we emphasize the cinematic eye of Phillips and how it has only continued to grow with what we see in this trailer? The seventies-set New York crime drama feels visceral in a way that transcends the legacy of the character almost and places him in the real context where it seems possible a true clown prince of crime could truly rise from. This is also very clearly a much, much darker movie than other DC films like Aquaman and Shazam!, as it will seemingly stand apart from the rest of the pack as a one-off character study rather than contributing any narrative strands to the larger DCEU. Joker is set to open in theaters on October 4th, 2019.

DUMBO Review

I was negative forty-six years-old in 1941 when Walt Disney released his fourth (and shortest) animated feature, Dumbo, a mere forty-five or so days before the attack on Pearl Harbor. To watch the original animated feature now is to see little more than simplicity and a cautionary tale about bullying, but in the wake of the context in which it was received initially it could certainly be perceived that a simplistic escape mixed with a prevailing underdog (or elephant) story might have been exactly what the country ordered. The question then posed to director Tim Burton's new, "live-action" take on the film is what might it mean to those who decide to take in this new experience? What is peculiar about choosing the 1941 film for an updated re-imagining is the fact it is without doubt an experience that will not hold the same nostalgic meaning for the majority of the audience that ventured out to 2017's Beauty & the Beast nor does it feature any of the explicit technical wizardry of 2016's The Jungle Book. This is the latest film in a string of Disney re-makes that, at their best, can be soulful and moving (Pete's Dragon) and at their worst can be derivative and dull (Alice in Wonderland), but while Dumbo comes to us from the same auteur who ushered in this recent craze with that aforementioned "worse-case scenario" that is Alice in Wonderland, Dumbo seemingly finds Burton not necessarily taking note of what others have done with similar opportunities, but more investing himself more wholeheartedly in the material; caring as much about the themes and ideas that populate his world as he does the design of the world itself. Burton is often referred to as a "visionary"director and this comes more from the fact he has a signature style than it does the fact he's consistently innovative or wise beyond comprehension, but while-as with many of his more recent endeavors-the sheen may have worn from Burton's visual prowess, Dumbo is something of a welcome return in that it is a streamlined, inoffensive, and largely harmless tale that simplifies the more recognizable themes Burton has worked in throughout much of his career. Sometimes simplicity is what's needed, what's necessary, and what connects viewers to material more effectively. Burton's Dumbo doesn't break any new ground, but it does keep the emotional beats intact, preserving their poignancy. Who knows, maybe a simple reminder about placing yourself in someone else's shoes is exactly what the country needed right now even if we didn't order it.

Tavern Talk: Video Review - US

Jordan Peele's Us dominated the weekend box office delivering the second largest opening ever for a live-action, original film, with over $70 million in tickets sold. With an estimated $70.25 million, Us topped the weekend box office with 1) the third largest opening of all-time for an R-rated horror film 2) the largest opening for a live-action, original film since Avatar's $77 million debut back in 2009 (which isn't bad for a list dominated by sequels), 3) the largest opening for an original, R-rated film, not to mention 4) the largest opening for an original horror film, topping last year's A Quiet Place ($50.2m), and while Captain Marvel set the record just a few weeks ago for the largest opening for a film with a female lead Us had 4) the largest opening for a movie with a black female lead of all time. Go you, Lupita Nyong'o! This beyond expectations performance came with a "B" CinemaScore from opening weekend audiences, which is just a hair below the "A-" for Get Out, but is still a solid audience grade for a horror film. Furthermore, the overall opening weekend audience was split 50/50 among males and females with 53% of the overall audience being twenty-five or older; fairly well-balanced all around. Speaking of Captain Marvel, the Marvel Studios film fell to second place in its third weekend of release, delivering an estimated $35 million for a domestic total of over $321 million. Paramount's Wonder Park, fell to third place in its second weekend, delivering an estimated $9 million while CBS Films's Five Feet Apart dropped to fourth place in its second weekend as well, pulling in an estimated $8.75 million. Rounding out the top five is DreamWorks Animation's How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, in its fifth week in release the film dipping just -30% for a $6.5 million weekend and a domestic cume that now tops $145 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!

US Review

“Therefore thus saith the Lord, Behold, I will bring evil upon them, which they shall not be able to escape; and though they shall cry unto me, I will not hearken unto them.” And so goes the Bible verse Jeremiah 11:11 from the Old Testament which serves to add incredible weight to the context of Jordan Peele’s sophomore effort and follow-up to his Oscar-winning feature debut, Get Out. Specifically, this passage represents a key mind set for half of the characters in US, but given the countless interpretations each verse of the Bible inspires so does what this verse might mean to our cast of characters. Peele utilizes both a handful of horror movie tropes as well as some admittedly fantastic symbolism to reiterate the influence of this verse on his work time and time again throughout the film seemingly forcing the audience to determine just how much they might mean to take or receive from film, what these images and actions might mean, what they might be saying, what they're trying to say, or if they even intend to say anything at all. In the context of the Bible, this verse refers to God's punishment of the Jews after the fall of Babylon. God was punishing Jeremiah and his fellow Jews for worshiping false idols, but in US, the descending attackers who are also doppelgängers of the characters that make-up our main family seem to be mad at their counterparts for a handful of other reasons. Of course, there is no doubt the argument could be made that in some regard the family under attack in US are false versions of these invading doppelgängers thus the reason the red jumpsuit-laden clones are so intent on doing away with their counterparts, but it can't help but feel as if there should be more to Peele's second film than simply this tit for tat comparison between the verse he quotes and the story he is telling. Moreover, it doesn't just feel as if there should be, but it feels as if there is more at work here than just a metaphor for this kind of darkness that lurks inside us all; this ugliness we all have to come to terms with at some point in order to move on and either choose to better ourselves or succumb to our repressions. Of course, the seemingly numerous analogies and motifs littered throughout US could simply exist to suggest the inspiration of different ideas and considerations in individual viewers while the core of what Peele is doing is executing his love of horror on a much grander if not more stimulating scale.

Teaser Trailer for Quentin Tarantino's ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD

Quentin Tarantino's latest film is set in the late sixties and focuses on Charles Manson victim Sharon Tate's (Margot Robbie) next door neighbor, fictional TV actor Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his stunt double, Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt). Though both DiCaprio and Pitt have worked with Tarantino before, this will be the first time the two mega-stars will share the screen. While Dalton and Booth's odyssey will undoubtedly serve as the focus of the film, Tarantino has gone on record saying this is the closest thing he's done to Pulp Fiction since that breakout film of his twenty-five years ago. Naturally, this leads one to believe Once Upon a Time in...Hollywood will have the kind of sprawling narrative and ensemble cast of characters that film sported. Set in Hollywood in, more specifically, 1969 this teaser trailer sets up DiCaprio‘s aging Western star as he's trying to find his place in a changing Hollywood landscape alongside his trusty stunt double Booth. The year is critical though as it is the year of Tate's tragic murder at the hands of the Manson Family cult. While early reports said Tarantino's script isn’t focused on the Manson murders, it will remain intriguing to see just how integral Robbie's role as well as Manson's is in the film, but while DiCaprio seems to be having a good 'ole time here, it can't help but feel like Pitt is going to steal this show simply from the minimal amount of footage we get here. Speaking of a sprawling ensemble cast, Once Upon a Time in … Hollywood also stars Al Pacino, Timothy Olyphant, Scoot McNairy, Damian Lewis, Luke Perry, Dakota Fanning, James Marsden, Clifton Collins, Keith Jefferson, Emile Hirsch, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, Danny Strong, Sydney Sweeney, Clu Gulager, James Landry Hébert, Mikey Madison, Lena Dunham, Maya Hawke, Nicholas Hammond, and opens in theaters on July 26th, 2019.

Tavern Talk: Video Review - CAPTIVE STATE

It's been some time since I've written one of these box office recap-type articles, but as I now have more control of my review show via Movie Tavern and can guarantee a consistency in their production it seemed a good time to pick this back up as one more way to promote these video reviews. Unfortunately, the movie we'll be kicking this off with is one that decided to open the second weekend of Captain Marvel's release as well as being the lowest earner in a crop of three brand new releases over the St. Patrick's day weekend. Coming in outside the top five at the box office in the number seven spot, director Rupert Wyatt's Captive State was unable to garner much of an audience, delivering just $3.1 million from 2,548 locations for only a $1,242 per theater average. The film also received a "C-" CinemaScore from opening weekend audiences which is, well, not good...and can only mean this thing will drop harder than a rock and disappear just as quick as it appeared. The film played to an opening weekend crowd that was 55% male with 66% of the crowd coming in under the age of thirty-five while all I can personally attest to is the fact there were only two other people in our theater the Thursday evening before Spring Break officially commenced. The other new releases of the weekend were Wonder Park, an animated feature from Paramount that debuted in second place with a domestic total of $16 million, and Five Feet Apart, a YA adaptation starring Riverdale's Cole Sprouse and Haley Lu Richardson (Edge of Seventeen, Columbus, Support the Girls) as two teenagers with life-threatening illnesses who meet in a hospital and fall in love. The romantic drama opened in third place delivering an estimated $13.1 million. Of course, Marvel Studios' Captain Marvel remained atop the box office in its second weekend of release with a $69.3 million sophomore frame. This pushes the film's domestic cume over $266 million after just ten days in domestic release while the film added $119.7 million from 54 markets bringing it's global total to $494 million for a worldwide cume now well over $760 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!

On DVD & Blu-Ray: March 19, 2019

Official Trailer for Disney & Pixar's TOY STORY 4

First and foremost, while I'm sure Toy Story 4 will feature plenty of new characters that can be sold as toys and plenty of new incarnations of old characters that can be re-packaged for sale in support of this fourth film, there is a strange kind of respect for making your new, seemingly co-lead character a spork with googly eyes and pipe cleaner arms that parents of pre-schoolers can bring home on the daily. Disney, Pixar, and the Toy Story brand are each worth more money than I can comprehend and it would seem that to reach such heights would only garner more greed and more ways to try and increase said wealth and stability, but then they go and make what feels like a purely financial move in green-lighting a fourth Toy Story movie after the third film rounded the trilogy out so perfectly all the more pure by placing at the center of it a toy any young boy or girl regardless of economical status can make for themselves. It's surely a calculated corporate move in some regard, I have no doubts, but it's also kind of *nice*. Still, it's easy to admit that when that final reel of 2010's Toy Story 3 finished rolling it seemed there was no better or more poignant way to complete this trilogy that had begun some fifteen years earlier, spanned my childhood, and revolutionized animation as we knew it. Over the nearly twenty-five years now that Pixar has been in power they have become increasingly more reliant on sequels to the films that originally made them that powerhouse. No matter how much I wished for Pixar to keep that book closed though, it was always something of an inevitability that we'd get another chapter in the Woody and Buzz saga. In this fourth chapter a new toy called "Forky" joins Woody and the gang on a road trip that reveals how big the world can really be for a toy. Pixar vet Josh Cooley makes his feature directorial debut from a screenplay by Stephany Folsom and Will McCormack (Celeste & Jesse Forever). Toy Story 4 features the voices of Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Jordan Peele, Keegan-Michael Key, Keanu Reeves, Patricia Arquette, Joan Cusack, Annie Potts, Wallace Shawn, Laurie Metcalf, Timothy Dalton, Kristen Schaal, Bonnie Hunt, Jodie Benson, John Ratzenberger, Tony Hale, Blake Clark, and opens on June 21st, 2019.

CAPTIVE STATE Review

Rupert Wyatt passed on making a sequel, never mind a complete trilogy of Planet of the Apes movies which then gave writer/director Matt Reeves (Cloverfield, Let Me In) an in to complete the trilogy and go on to now be penning and planning a solo Batman film for WB's DCEU. Would Wyatt have preferred this career path? Who's to say? And who's to say if Wyatt had rounded out the Apes films that he would have been offered the Batman film at all, but it does stand to question if Wyatt regrets his decision to pass on such high profile opportunities. Since deciding not to return to the world of stories about simians though, Wyatt has only made one feature (2014's re-make of The Gambler for Paramount which held a $25 million production budget and only turned over a $39 million worldwide gross) with Captive State being his second outing into feature-length material and a seemingly personal one at that. Wyatt co-wrote the screenplay for Captive State with Erica Beeney (The Battle of Shaker Heights) and serves as a producer, but this low-budget drama/thriller has more in common with Wyatt's 2008 breakout, The Escapist, than it does his 2011 introduction to the mainstream despite posing as a tale that typically functions on the same scale or budget as a Planet of the Apes sequel.