Toy Story 4 Review

Disney and Pixar Upend Expectations with this Fourth Sequel that Comes to Justify Itself in Moving and Necessary Ways.

Child's Play Review

This Re-Boot/Re-Make of the Original, 1988 Killer Doll Slasher Flick is Made Fun by a Game Cast and some Creatively Endearing Choices.

Aladdin Review

Will Smith and a Charismatic Ensemble Bring Director Guy Ritchie's Live-Action Re-Make of the Classic Animated Tale to Life Just Enough to Justify its Existence.

MIB: International Review

Director F. Gary Gray and a Charismatic Cast Featuring Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson aren't Enough to Lift this Reboot to the Height of its Predecessors.

The Secret Life of Pets 2 Review

This Sequel to the High-Concept, but Only Mildly Entertaining 2016 Film Tries for More yet Comes up Feeling Emptier than Before.

New Trailer for CATS

Universal Pictures has released a new Cats trailer and, well, I'm sure based on the reaction to the first trailer you can guess how things went down with this one. What's crazy to me is, that despite remembering very vividly having a VHS tape of the stage production and very vividly recalling watching certain pieces of it, I have no idea what the Broadway musical is about much less whatever Oscar-winning director Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech) and his collaboration with Lee Hall (Billy Elliot) on the screenplay might amount to. Whatever it might be, bad or good come the end of the day, an ambitious take on the long-running production seems to be what we're in for at the very least; and if there's genuine emotion and clear desire to make something real out of what is clearly a silly premise-I can get down with that. The ultimate thing is, despite the online backlash over the look of the titular characters (instead of using makeup to make the actors look like cats, Hooper and co. utilized new performance-capture technology to create entirely CG felines), I don't personally find it that distracting. I mean, c'mon-the now highest grossing movie of all time features a talking raccoon and a giant purple hero eater as its antagonist. Like that film, Hooper's Cats boasts a star-studded ensemble led by Jennifer Hudson, James Corden, and Taylor Swift and it is with musically inclined names such as these combined with the fact Hooper has more than a little experience in the musical genre (he also directed the Hugh Jackman/Russell Crowe Les Miserables) that one is led to believe there might be some genuinely cool ideas and effortlessly strong executions within this puzzle of a premise. And say what you will, but the production design here is kind of jaw-dropping while the clips of the musical performances we see look to be really well done, so why all the fuss? Is it simply because it's CGI cats doing these things? Sure, I get it, but if that's the only case against it yet the Broadway musical has somehow managed to be a long-running hit I have to imagine there is an audience out there who isn't as bothered by as much as the community on the internet who is ready to damn this thing to hell before it even arrives seems to be. I wouldn't say I'm necessarily excited to see Cats, but I'm certainly intrigued and not going to not see it based purely on the fact the character designs make me feel uncomfortable. I tend to appreciate Hooper's aesthetics and "on-the-ground" mentality meshed with the larger than life prowess of his visuals and I can only think that will be ratcheted up to eleven on this one. Cats also stars Judi Dench, Jason Derulo, Idris Elba, Ian McKellen, Rebel Wilson, Francesca Hayward and opens in theaters on December 20th, 2019.

Tavern Talk: Video Review - DOCTOR SLEEP

We were somewhat off in our guestimate over at Tavern Talk last week concerning what would come in atop the box office as we, like most folks, assumed it would be Doctor Sleep, the adaptation of Stephen King's sequel to The Shining, starring Ewan McGregor and directed by Mike Flanagan (The Haunting of Hill House), but we all know what assuming does and that old saying couldn't have proven more true over last weekend as the $50 million budgeted Doctor Sleep turned in an extremely poor $14 million performance over its first three days of release. Initially, Doctor Sleep was tracking to launch with $25 million or more, but ended up finishing in second to fellow newcomer, Midway, a Roland Emmerich (Independence Day) directed WWII flick about the clash between the American fleet and the Imperial Japanese Navy which marked a pivotal turning point in the Pacific Theater during the war. This makes for another disappointment in a string of disappointments for Warner Brothers as, outside of Joker and IT Chapter Two, the studio has had a a number of underperformers this fall including Motherless Brooklyn, The Goldfinch, Blinded by the Light and The Kitchen. On the bright side, Doctor Sleep did score a "B+" CinemaScore from opening day audiences, which is solid, but the fact this opened just after Halloween along with the fact crowds were 57% male and 74% over the age of twenty-five suggests people simply weren't interested in a horror film that put all its eggs in the "forty year-later sequel to a classic" basket. People know The Shining, sure, but do they still care about it? Apparently not. Internationally, Doctor Sleep opened in sixty-eight markets over the last two weeks and presently stands at $20 million internationally for a global total of just $34 million. Needless to say, the film has a lot of ground to cover and not much time to do so as the market will only continue to be flooded both with more adult a family friendly fare the closer we get to the Thanksgiving holiday. In another surprise turn, Paramount's family comedy Playing with Fire starring John Cena beat out Universal's holiday-themed Last Christmas for third place with an estimated $13 million while the Emilia Clarke/Henry Golding rom-com made about $12 million from an audience that was 65% female and 65% over the age of twenty-five. Rounding out the top five was Terminator: Dark Fate which, in its second weekend, scored around $10.8 million for a domestic cume that now stands at $48.45 million while adding another $29.9 million internationally for a global tally just shy of $200 million. As always, be sure to follow the official TAVERN TALK by Initial Reaction YouTube channel as well as on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter where you can find a new review (or reviews) each week!       

DOCTOR SLEEP Review

How does one craft a forty year-later sequel to what is widely considered one of if not the greatest horror film of all time that is also based on a sequel novel by an author that didn't appreciate the aforementioned film adaptation? In other words, how does one approach making a film based on a book that is the sequel to the original source material as well as being a sequel to the film adaptation that the author of both novels didn't care for? Tricky, right? Complicated? Complex? Beyond difficult? Sure, it's all of these things and while I've not read any Stephen King in some time (we're talking probably high school) and wasn't aware the master of horror had penned a sequel to The Shining in 2013 it seems inevitable still that this is where we are six years later with the one hundred and fifty-two minute Doctor Sleep. In the same amount of time since King's follow-up was released, writer/director Mike Flanagan burst onto the scene with a feature length adaptation of his short film, Oculus, that paved the way for him to become Netflix's go-to guy for original horror content as the filmmaker not only produced original films for the streaming service like Before I Wake and Hush, but also got his feet wet with another King adaptation in 2017's Gerald's Game then going on to oversee the wildly successful TV series, The Haunting of Hill House, that premiered to rave reviews last year. This is all to say that Flanagan has developed a style all his own and more importantly-a penchant for gauging the type of scares and imagery to best represent the horrors of a given story-meaning he's able to grasp the characters and their circumstances in a way where the scares aren't for the sake of the genre, but are in fact appropriate and even further, indicative, of the type of narrative being disclosed. Flanagan does this through soft, but illuminating character moments in which he latches onto certain aspects of an individual bound to serve a significant role in the story he's telling and then track the arc of said character trait through the more genre-specific events that naturally tend to enlighten the character to this side of themselves they may have either not previously considered or wanted to face in ways that are emotionally compelling and thematically resonant. Thus is the case with adult Danny Torrance (Ewan McGregor) in Doctor Sleep as Flanagan's now distinctive approach blends with the style of Stanley Kubrick's 1980 film and the tone of King's writing to create a well-rounded, expertly balanced yet equally effective journey that is both everything fans of the original film might have hoped for as much as it is wholly its own endeavor; a bridge between who we were meant to be, who we become and the resilience necessary to counteract the detrimental and absolve one's self of their past in order to continue to shine.   

Tavern Talk: Video Review - TERMINATOR: DARK FATE

After something of a lag in major releases last week, the first weekend in November kicked off the final two months of the year with what was supposed to be a bang, but while there's no doubt the movie itself contains many an explosion, Terminator: Dark Fate was little more than a whimper at the box office. One might even say it suffered a...dark fate (ay dios mio!). Though September and October offered several solid contenders for the awards race and as Joker continues to do monster business (dropping only 30% in its fifth week of release and remaining solidly in second place while closing in on $300 million domestic) it is November and December that tend to see big, non-stop major releases and awards contenders opening week to week. With a budget of $185 million, Tim "Deadpool" Miller's shot at a sixth Terminator film (the third in a decade) opened to only $29 million over the first three days coming in well below industry expectations which had the film pegged for a $40+ million opening. Internationally, the film made $73 million from forty-eight markets, including $28 million from China alone bringing the film's international total to $94.6 million and a $125.6 million worldwide cume. While Paramount and whatever international distributors are handling the film will hope for a solid second weekend to at least break even on the production budget, odds aren't in the films favor as a trio of new releases open this week for a variety of demographics, but the R-rated follow-up to The Shining, Doctor Sleep, could take a real bite out of Terminator's potential audience not to mention its theater count. The film will also open this weekend in Japan, Norway, Poland, Taiwan and Bolivia, so here's to hoping those international numbers show something resembling consistency. As stated, Joker came in second with $13.5 million while adding another $38.8 million internationally, pushing the film's overseas total past $637.7 million for a worldwide cume that now sits at $936.9 million. For the biggest story featuring a new release though, we have to skip past Maleficent: Mistress of Evil in third ($13 million for an $85 million domestic total thus far) and go to fourth place where we find Focus Features' Harriet, the Harriet Tubman biopic starring Cynthia Erivo (Widows), which opened in 2,059 locations and scored an $11.6 million opening (a per theater average of nearly $6,000) on a budget of $17 million. The film received an "A+" CinemaScore from opening day audiences and this along with the fact the platform releases for The Lighthouse, Jojo Rabbit and Parasite continue to do strong business despite limited engagements hint at a strong awards season ahead. As always, be sure to follow the official TAVERN TALK by Initial Reaction YouTube channel as well as on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter where you can find a new review (or reviews) each week!

Tavern Talk: Video Review - MALEFICENT: MISTRESS OF EVIL

This weekend saw the release of two new sequels in Disney's Maleficent: Mistress of Evil and Sony's Zombieland: Double Tap and TAVERN TALK shot reviews for both as we highlight the Disney sequel this week given it topped the box office while you can look for our video review of Double Tap tomorrow. With essentially $37 million, Mistress of Evil opened atop the weekend box office, but failed to reach either studio or industry expectations as that number is just over half of the $69 million opening of the 2014 original. Internationally, Maleficent launched in all major markets, bringing in an estimated $118 million for a worldwide total that now sits at $157 million on an estimated production budget of $185 million. Needless to say, this one will have a lot of ground to cover over the next few weeks to earn its spot as the "go-to" theatrical option for family Halloween entertainment. That said, and though this sequel skews a little older than the first film, there isn't another major release with less than a PG-13 rating for another month when Frozen II will decimate everything in its path. This open playing field combined with the fact that those who did decide to see the film in theaters opening weekend did in fact enjoy it are all positives pointing towards not exactly a fairy tale ending, but a "good enough" one. Opening weekend audiences gave the film an "A" CinemaScore as it currently holds a 96% audience score on RottenTomatoes as well. In second place, Joker continued to post impressive numbers and strong holds as the R-rated comic book film from Warner Brothers dropped only 48% in its third weekend for $29.3 million and a current domestic total of $250 million. Internationally, the film added another $77.8 million for a $490 million global cume and a worldwide total that is now north of $740 million. In third is where we find Zombieland: Double Tap as the film delivered on the high end of industry expectations, bringing in almost $27 million over the three-day weekend. Of note is the fact the sequel actually debuted higher than its predecessor, outpacing the unadjusted $24.7 million opening total of the 2009 original, The decade in between certainly factors into the comparison, but inflation aside this is one the year’s few direct sequels to open bigger than its predecessor. Double Tap received a "B+" CinemaScore from opening day audiences and like Maleficent, will presumably benefit from the Halloween holiday, but given the film is only playing in seventeen overseas markets and has grossed almost $35 million worldwide on a production budget of $42 million it seems Sony shouldn't be too concerned and go ahead and consider this a win. As always, be sure to follow the official TAVERN TALK by Initial Reaction YouTube channel as well as on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter where you can find a new review (or reviews) each week!

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

It's hard to believe the monumental finale of the Skywalker saga is officially upon us, but maybe more surprising is the fact that-as a devoted Star Wars fan-I'm only cautiously optimistic about how good the film might turn out to be and only mildly intrigued by where the story will take us  after 2017's disappointing (for me) The Last Jedi. Needless to say, both excitement and expectations have been 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 what we have seen so far seems to deliver what longtime fans of the franchise want and what I can only imagine is equally intriguing to those who enjoyed Johnson's take on the universe as I have to believe they are as equally intrigued as to where the story could go after where Johnson left it. While story, character, and plot details have been incredibly mum we do know 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 a greater reward. Abrams and Lucasfilm director Kathleen Kennedy have continued to discuss the importance of practical versus visual effects in this trilogy as a whole and while there is certainly no lack of special effects in this trailer one of the best things one can say about the aesthetic of this trailer is how grounded it actually feels. Legacy players like Anthony Daniels, Lando Calrissian himself Billy Dee Williams, Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher will return for this final chapter as do new generation cast members including Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Adam Driver, Lupita Nyong'o, Kelly Marie Tran, Joonas Suotamo, and Billie Lourd while this film will also feature newcomers Naomi Ackie who we know plays a character named Jannah along with Keri Russell and Richard E. Grant. The film will also introduce us to BB-8's new friend, Dio. Star Wars: Episode IX - The Rise of Skywalker opens on December 20th, 2019. Get your tickets now!

MALEFICENT: MISTRESS OF EVIL Review

For a movie that primes its audience to experience a tale of villainy and "pure evil" as incarnated by the title character of Maleficent (Angelina Jolie returning), Maleficent: Mistress of Evil largely doesn't fulfill its promise as the character is a mistress in the sense she's in a position of authority or control, but never does she wield these positions in ways one would exclusively associate with or consider to be "evil". Misunderstood, sure, but evil? Nah. Like the 2014 original, this sequel is more telling the audience a story we were unaware of concerning the character with the intention of ultimately altering our opinion of her and gaining a newfound sympathy for the character as her representation in the 1959 Disney animated classic was apparently a by-product of those circumstances and not "the whole story"; a reputation built off a single perspective of not only an isolated incident, but one with some justification as far as Maleficent's emotions were concerned even if her actions never could be. While that 2014 film was more or less restricted by the original tale of Sleeping Beauty (we've seen the iconic cursing of the baby moment in live action, so let's move on) this second chapter in Maleficent's story breaks free of those constraints and pushes the narrative past Aurora's (Elle Fanning, also returning) sixteenth birthday and on into adulthood where she is now set to wed the re-cast Prince Philip (Harris Dickinson instead of Brenton Thwaites) as they start a life of their own together whereas Maleficent had now inadvertently become something of a mother figure to this young woman she originally cursed and has therefore only recently come to feel as if she's gained the genuine love of what she might describe as a family. Jolie's Maleficent exudes this gracefulness as embodied through the strong presence of Jolie herself as she is not only a warrior and commander, but a woman who is complex in her deep, emotional feelings that the film demonstrates are also possible for someone of such strong nature to possess. It is this characterization and the breaking of such long-standing archetypes that truly allows this sequel to outshine not only its predecessor, but the majority of these live-action Disney re-makes or re-tellings. Director Joachim Rønning (Kon-Tiki, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales) takes over from Robert Stromberg and brings with him an aesthetic less reliant on big, CGI spectacle (though there is still plenty of this) and a visual prowess more interested in broadening the scope of the world the first film only hinted at. At the same time, Linda Woolverton's screenplay brings together a trifecta of female characters that serve as the heart and soul of the themes of the narrative coalescing in a sequel that not only surpasses the quality of the original (which, admittedly-was not a high bar) by doing everything that original wanted to do, only better.

Tavern Talk: Video Review - GEMINI MAN

Despte the fact the second weekend of October sported three new, major wide releases there was no chance any would be dethroning Joker as the Clown Prince of the box office given the film not only ended up topping the weekend box office domestically, but also both internationally and worldwide. The $55 million production has already generated $563.6 million globally in its first twelve days and will likely pass $600 million before its third full weekend of release even begins. The film has been holding incredibly well day to day as the film dropped a mere 13% from its first Monday to this past Monday. The film is already the seventh highest grossing movie of the year so far and shows no signs of slowing down even as major studio releases such as the Maleficent and Zombieland sequels hit theaters this weekend alongside a slew of platform releases for Oscar hopefuls in the likes of Jojo Rabbit and The Lighthouse. This week on TAVERN TALK by initial reaction though, we discussed what was presumed would be the biggest of those aforementioned newcomers in Ang Lee's collaboration with Will Smith in Gemini Man and yet it was actually UAR's animated The Addams Family that led the way with a solid second place debut delivering an estimated $30.3 million over the three-day weekend. Meanwhile, Paramount's Gemini Man landed in third as Lee's action-thriller that was more an excuse to play with and explore the limits of this technology that created a younger and fully CGI version of Smith ballooned the budget while not necessarily adding anything to the overall movie-going experience given less than a handful of theaters were able to play the film in 3D and at the higher frame rate as intended. Rather, I assume that the majority of those who saw Gemini Man this weekend saw it as I did-in regular ole 24 FPS and in your standard 2D, 4K theater. This is all to say that had the film been made because it wanted to tell a certain story rather than utilize a certain piece of technology a debut of $20.5 million wouldn't be a big deal, but given the film cost $138 million the story is a little different. Internationally, Gemini Man debuted in five markets earlier this month and expanded to fifty-eight last weekend from which it brought in $31.1 million for an overseas cume that now totals $39 million and a current worldwide sum of $70.1 million. The film has yet to open in Japan or Taiwan, where it will open on October 25, but needless to say-this was not exactly the kind of "Big Willie Weekend" Lee and nor the Fresh Prince were hoping for. As always, be sure to follow the official TAVERN TALK by Initial Reaction YouTube channel as well as on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter where you can find a new review (or reviews) each week!

GEMINI MAN Review

There are few things more disappointing than a movie that moots the charisma of Will Smith. And yet, somehow, Ang Lee's Gemini Man manages to not only do this, but do so as the film literally doubles the amount Smith while equally subduing the level of charm the movie star typically brings. Gemini Man is a science project of a movie in which Lee once again tries to make a case for the practice of utilizing higher frame rates as opposed to the traditional 24 frames per second, which is pretty much how all movies have been shot since moving pictures and sound collided. As with his previous feature, Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, the filmmaker shot Gemini Man at 120 frames per second and though only a handful of theaters in North America will be able to show the film in this intended format Lee continues to insist this is the way of the future of cinema or more appropriately-the next step in salvaging the theater-going experience. To this point, Lee's intentions are obviously admirable as he is experimenting in these techniques to try and enhance the immersiveness of the theatrical experience and it might even be further to this point that Lee has tried to implement such techniques through as generic a genre thriller as Gemini Man, but despite the technology (and this is something Lee should have learned on Billy Lynn) the level at which an audience is immersed in a film and the experience of movie-going as a whole is still rooted in the basics of story and character. That's not to say the core concept of Gemini Man doesn't have potential-films cut from the same cloth such as Looper, Minority Report or even The Terminator to a certain extent have all succeeded in different ways while more or less using the same tools-but here, the premise seems to simply be an excuse to try these new advancements in the field of filmmaking; essentially making Gemini Man a crapshoot of a movie that will help the film industry figure out what works and what doesn't. Furthermore, in the age of properties and brands being bigger than old school movie stars Will Smith is still arguably still one of the biggest celebrities if not movie stars on the planet still as well as being one of the most charming and likable personalities to boot, but in Gemini Man all of that presence and personality is squandered in a movie uninterested in who Smith's character is. Gemini Man ultimately feels less like a step forward in any aspect of its production and more like a regression in the ability of Lee to tell a compelling story with or without all the bells and whistles.

Tavern Talk: Video Review - JOKER

Everyone knows the story of the week is that of Joker's success despite all of the "controversy" turning out to be a bunch of non-controversy and the film turning in the largest October domestic opening weekend of all-time and the fourth largest opening ever for an R-rated feature with $96 million. This final total, which is $2.5 million above Sunday estimates of $93.5 million, tops the $80.25 million opening of Venom from last year. Internationally, Joker debuted in seventy-three markets and brought in an estimated $140.5 million for a $234 million global debut. Keep in mind, this film was made for "only" $55 million which is insanely cheap by comic book/super hero standards (the other "cheap" comic book movie this year was DC's Shazam!) which can only mean Warner Bros. will be green-lighting several other character studies made as gritty dramas under the veil of comic book characters which-to be completely transparent-is more than fine by me as I found Joker to be fascinating in the best of ways and while I'm completely fine with Todd Phillips' film being a single one-off film as I mostly believe it should be, but I'm conflicted as I'm also dying to see Joaquin Phoenix reprise his role-more specifically in Matt Reeves' upcoming Batman film. While that may not feel anywhere within the realm of possibility Phoenix did tell Rolling Stone film critic Peter Travers he's open to returning to the character. “I wouldn’t have thought of this as my dream role. But now, honestly, I can’t stop thinking about it,” Phoenix said. “I talked to Todd a lot about what else we might be able to do, in general, just working together, but also specifically, if there’s something else we can do with Joker that might be interesting.” And if the opening weekend numbers weren't enough to convince Phoenix of the interest in the character, opening weekend audiences scored the film a "B+" CinemaScore with the under thirty-five demo giving it an "A-". Joker currently sits at a strong 69% on RottenTomatoes with a 90% audience score. Opening weekend crowds were 64% male while 66% of the audience was under the age of thirty-five. While it will be interesting to see how Joker plays over the next few weeks as much competition continues to open (this week is Gemini Man, Addams Family and Jexi with Zombieland: Double Tap and Maleficent: Mistress of Evil opening next week) which will naturally bring down Joker's record-setting wide release in 4,374 locations, the widest ever for an October release. As always, be sure to follow the official TAVERN TALK by Initial Reaction YouTube channel as well as on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter where you can find a new review (or reviews) each week!

JOKER Review

Joker is no The Dark Knight, but much like in Christopher Nolan's second Batman film, the music in writer/director Todd Phillips' origin story about the Clown Prince of Crime plays as critical a role as any living, breathing human character. The score in Joker is so critical in fact, that Joaquin Phoenix's titular character breaks into dance at multiple points in the movie; the music and movement serving as an expression of certain emotions Phoenix's Arthur Fleck is otherwise unable to convey. The first time Arthur kills another person he actually ends up killing three people and though it could be argued the first two were in self-defense, the third death was not only unnecessary, but it is one Arthur seeks out and is determined to have for his own sense of satisfaction. Naturally, Arthur flees the scene for fear of being caught, but once he dumps the weapon and composes himself he slowly begins to move his feet as if a ballet dancer practicing the battement tendu position. As Arthur's arms move into second position composer Hildur Guðnadóttir's score begins to swell and these chords and motions only serve to amplify the liberation the character feels. Liberation of one's self after taking another's life is certainly dark, but it also isn't anything we haven't seen from comic book characters-especially villains-before and Joker certainly isn't the last time we'll see it either. What is it then, that makes this specific instance of revenge from a man beaten down by society both so egregious and compelling as has been highly documented in the cultural response to the film? Is it that Arthur Fleck's trajectory resembles that of any number of mass shooting culprits? This seems a given, yes, but more it is the level of joy-and not only joy-but satisfaction that Arthur and his eventual alter ego come to gain from the act that has incited concern over both the portrayal and promotion of such a man. Sure, Phillips and Phoenix have intentionally crafted as gritty, raw and grounded a movie as any film inspired by comic books has dared to be and in that type of portrayal there is inherent shock to be found (you saw The Boys, right?), but while Joker and its screenplay wrestle with what exactly it's trying to say it stands to make a statement about how this product of certain circumstance inspires a man to become what he believes necessary to remedy others from those same, undesirable circumstances. That's not to say he's right, but what is maybe most unsettling about the film and Phoenix's performance is that Arthur believes he is. 

Tavern Talk: Video Review - ABOMINABLE

While I'd hoped to be able to review Roadside's Judy this week on Tavern Talk, the Renee Zellweger biopic about Judy Garland, only opened in 461 theaters nationwide and none of those theaters were in my neck of the woods (in fact, the closes theater playing the film was nearly 300 miles away). While that film will expand this weekend, our only other option for a new, wide release to review this past weekend was that of Universal's release of DreamWorks Animation and Pearl Studio's animated title Abominable. With Abominable, Universal once again finished atop the weekend box office while also taking second place with Focus Features' Downton Abbey (Focus is owned by Comcast through Universal Pictures, a division of its wholly owned subsidiary NBCUniversal). Downton, now in its second weekend, followed up a strong debut last weekend by bringing in $14.3 million, pushing the film over $58 million domestic and over $111 million internationally on a reported budget between $13-$20 million. Meanwhile, Abominable debuted with $20.6 million, but given it carries a $75 million price tag, the film has a lot of work to do if it's going to justify itself and with The Addams Family just around the corner it needs to work fast. While it doesn't say much for this year's line-up of original animated films, Abominable's performance was enough to earn it the title of "largest opening for an original animated film in 2019" joining Universal's Us and Good Boys as the only original films to open at number one in North American in 2019. Furthermore, this is the seventh Universal title to top the charts this year (eight if you include Downton) which would give the studio the most number one finishes for 2019. Additionally, Abominable earned an "A" CinemaScore from opening day audiences and holds an 81% Tomatometer score and 96% audience score, which could bode well for its the film's potential, especially as alternative programming to this weekend's Joker. Internationally, Abominable is now playing in thirty overseas territories and brought in an estimated $8.8 million over its first weekend for an global total near $34.5 million with several major markets yet to still open in. As always, be sure to follow the official TAVERN TALK by 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 BIRDS OF PREY Starring Margot Robbie

One of the few highlights of 2016's Suicide Squad were a handful of the performances, namely Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn. Robbie's performance made her feel tailor-made for the part and her portrayal was one of the few things that made that film come alive. There was no question we'd be seeing her character again, but in what incarnation and capacity was uncertain. David Ayer's Suicide Squad made nearly $750 million worldwide, but the shake-ups in the DC Extended Universe that occurred post-Suicide Squad left a lot up for debate as to where planned projects might end up and what characters might make it through to the next phase of Warner Brothers' plans for their cinematic universe of caped crusaders. Enter Birds of Prey, a movie that will continue the story of Harley Quinn after the events of Suicide Squad, but a movie that will also arrive in the DCEU after audiences have just experienced Aquaman and Shazam which, as you might already know, present quite a different atmosphere than anything done under Zack Snyder's guidance. Directed by Cathy Yan who only has one previous feature under her belt (2018's Sundance stand-out, Dead Pigs, a satire which reportedly blends drama and comedy well) and written by Christina Hodson (Bumblebee), the film has been pretty secretive as far as plot or story is concerned with much of the speculation coming from the cast of characters known to be involved. Speaking of that cast, what is known so far is that joining Robbie will be Jurnee Smollett-Bell playing Black Canary, Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Helena Bertinelli AKA Huntress and Rosie Perez as Gotham City detective Renee Montoya who are on a mission to save Ella Jay Basco's Cassandra Cain (one of the original Batgirls) from baddies Victor Zsasz and Black Mask as played by Chris Messina and Ewan McGregor. Though Harley Quinn has always been associated with Joker since her inception on the nineties Batman animated series, Birds of Prey will see her break loose of Leto's interpretation (keep in mind this has nothing to do with the Joaquin Phoenix film opening this week) and as can be seen in this first, official trailer both Robbie and Harley Quinn herself seem to be having a blast without having to be tied down to a man. It's hard to be all in on this one given the fantastic (fantabulous?) trailer for Suicide Squad which ended up being a rather disappointing film, but other than the title character and producing studio/distributor this film doesn't seem to have much in common with that one. Here's to our cautious optimism being rewarded when Birds of Prey and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Miss Harley Quinn opens on February 7, 2020.

On DVD & Blu-Ray: October 1, 2019

ABOMINABLE Review

As with most animated films, Abominable is about a girl who is looking for a purpose. Someone trying to fill a void left by a departed parent, but what is different about writer/director Jill Culton's (Open Season) film is that it doesn't deal as much with this emotional process through the mind of a child as it does that of an older teen/early adult; an individual mature enough to more fully comprehend the ramifications of such a life event than a character like...Nemo. This isn't to say that automatically makes Abominable more interesting or better than that Pixar classic or any of the many Disney animated films that open with or include the death of a parent. What it is implying is the fact the journey we go on in this latest DreamWorks fable while still familiar, hits the recognizable beats with something of a different perspective. It is for this reason that I almost wish the film hadn't resorted to leaning so heavily on the (somewhat unexpected) magical element as contributed by the yeti referenced in the title, but it is this friendship between the mystical creature, Everest, and our protagonist, Yi (Chloe Bennet), that ultimately lends real soul to the proceedings and keeps the movie from becoming a kitschy fantastical tale solely for the kiddos. These magical elements also make for some wonderfully creative imagery that will sweep one up in the themes of perseverance, dealing with loss and the importance of friendship even if such routine topics don't initially strike one as engaging. Great supporting characters such as Peng (Albert Tsai) make for great comic relief and therefore some memorable moments while Eddie Izzard's Burnish, the purported antagonist, is oddly hysterical and childish in frequently hilarious ways even if the movie lets us know too early exactly what it's going to do with the character.

Tavern Talk: Video Review - AD ASTRA & RAMBO: LAST BLOOD

What an odd weekend this was as over at Tavern Talk as we delivered two new video reviews and yet neither movie we discussed topped the weekend box office as Downton Abbey had a record weekend for Focus Features in that not only did the spin-off film top the weekend box office, but it became the studio's largest opener ever with just over $30 million domestic. Having never seen a single episode of the television series I didn't even consider it as an option as far as viewing for fear of being completely lost or reviewing (given I had zero point of reference), but instead was laser focused on the latest Brad Pitt feature from director James Gray (The Immigrant, The Lost City of Z) in Ad Astra while one of our producers and his dad enjoyed (or seemed to) the latest (and presumably last?) Rambo flick from Sylvester Stallone appropriately titled Last Blood. It was in second place where we would find these two films as they battled it out for the silver medal. Second place was neck-and-neck for most of the weekend, but it was Disney's release of the Fox-produced Ad Astra that ultimately edged out Lionsgate and Millennium's Rambo: Last Blood. After Monday actuals came in it was finally determined that Ad Astra in fact finished with just over $19 million from 3,460 locations whereas Rambo came up just short of that with $18.9 million from 3,618 theaters.

New Trailer for FROZEN II

As the parent of a nearly five year-old I have seen Frozen more times than I care to think about and am both genuinely surprised as well as kind of appreciative that Disney has taken the six years they have to bring a sequel to the big screen. On the one hand, surprised as the audience who originally saw Frozen in theaters is now six years older (and 6-12 is quite the gap), but at the same time my daughter wasn't even born until nearly a year after the first film's release and she loves Anna and Elsa as much as anyone could. So, there is no shortage on the key demographic who are more than happy to see more of these characters no matter the iteration, but it seems Disney and particularly directors Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck (with Lee having penned both screenplays-this time around with Hidden Figures scribe Allison Schroeder) were keen to mature the sequel with that of the audience who it was originally intended for. That is to say that this new, full look at Frozen II offers a glimpse into a more fully realized Arendelle meaning that while the events of the first film took both the characters and the viewer by storm with Elsa's powers, what they entailed and how they immediately affected the people around her the sequel is seemingly here to explain the mystical history of Elsa's kingdom as well as the origin of her powers and furthermore, just how powerful Elsa is exactly. Of course, this movie could be about Sven's pooping habits and it would make a billion dollars, but it's nice to see the sequel to the biggest animated film the box office has ever seen (over $1.2 billion worldwide) be more than just another attempt at another billion bucks. Also of note is the fact the new film will feature new songs from original songwriting and husband/wife duo Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez. Frozen II will see the return of Kristen Bell as Anna, Idina Menzel as Elsa, Jonathan Groff as Kristoff, and Josh Gad as Olaf along with Sterling K. Brown and Evan Rachel Wood joining the cast. Frozen II is set to open on November 22nd, 2019.

AD ASTRA Review

Ad Astra is a Trojan horse of a movie for as mainstream as a film about space exploration wrapped in mystery and starring Brad Pitt sounds like it would be if one is able to expel such expectations set by the marketing and feast on the fulfillment that Ad Astra ultimately embodies given the aspirations of writer/director James Gray's (Two Lovers, The Immigrant, The Lost City of Z) latest work one would quickly come to realize this is a film filled with ideas and questions bubbling just below the surface despite its apparent facade; questions the movie as well as Gray's screenplay may or may not have answers to. Ad Astra is also, and not coincidentally, a film that is as slick in its storytelling as it is its visual representation meaning there is an immediate confidence to the film that speaks to the idea that it knows exactly what it wants to be and where it's going even if, as we go further into the deepest reaches of our solar system, the philosophical ponderings posed by the film seem to be or at least feel more like questions born out of questions that were born out of the writing process. Moreover, the themes and ideas Ad Astra ultimately come to wrestle with being more the products of streams of consciousness writing than they do necessarily questions that pertain directly to the initial idea Gray was chasing. There's nothing wrong with this, of course, as it in fact makes for a rather rewarding experience given the mysteries the narrative offers. The few, distinct answers the film delivers are slight in both comparison and reward to the number of new questions and ideas one's own mind will generate; the thought of the individual experience and reaction to certain material being such that each individual will respond differently, but with valid interpretations and inquiries is a claim not many films-especially mainstream Hollywood space movies with movie stars on their posters-can claim these days. Yes, there have been a number of films about space starring members of the Ocean's Eleven ensemble lately, but neither of those films approach the topic of the stars with as much of a balance in cynicism and optimism as Ad Astra does. Given the Trojan horse comparison, one might expect the subtleties of the film to outweigh the more blunt aspects general audiences require from a space adventure, but there is a specific moment when, like Pitt's character of Major Roy McBride, we come to realize there are more layers to the picture than the ones being highlighted for us and that we can choose to either dig as deep as we'd like or revel in the surface pleasures-both have their perks-but the true reward comes in finding your own place to land.

First Trailer for DARK WATERS Starring Mark Ruffalo

In case you thought you were suffering from some strange case of déjà vu where there was a new trailer out for a movie with the same title as a random horror flick you're pretty sure you saw over a decade ago starring Jennifer Connelly then be confused no more as that was Dark Water while this new trailer is for a movie called Dark Waters! Emphasis on S! This also isn't a drama/horror/mystery based on a Japanese film that spawned from the countless Japanese-inspired horror films of the early aughts thanks to Gore Verbinski's Americanized version of The Ring, but rather this is a straight-up legal drama based on the true story of an attorney (Mark Ruffalo) for DuPont Chemical who discovered that his company was poisoning the residents of a small town for over forty years. Naturally, Ruffalo's Robert Bilott must do what is right and stand up to the evil corporation even if it means losing his job, his reputation, his family or in other words-his entire sense of livelihood, but to go to bed with a clear conscience is of a top priority and Dark Waters looks as if it will provide a very compelling set of actions that will at least lead to what we can hope is Bilott's clean conscience at the end of the film. All of that said, this is also the new film from Academy Award-nominated director Todd Haynes (Far From Heaven, I'm Not There, Carol) and while I've always been more lukewarm to his films as opposed to critics more my senior it's also not hard to recognize the filmmaker's penchant for putting his own, interesting twist on certain types of stories or genres and hopefully that will be the case here. Focus Features has certainly packaged this as a movie with an important message and as a movie any viewer would benefit from seeing if not necessarily for the entertainment value, but for the information around this story that it's bringing to a wider audience and yet-as far as Haynes' work goes-this looks fairly straightforward; a legal thriller where the little guy must risk it all to stand up to the evil corporation. And while I'm sure there's more to the film than what this first trailer indicates, I'm curious as to just how much of an imprint Haynes will leave on this one. Dark Waters also stars Anne Hathaway, Tim Robbins, Bill Camp, Victor Garber, Mare Winningham, William Jackson Harper, Bill Pullman and opens in limited release on November 22nd, 2019.

Tavern Talk: Video Review - HUSTLERS

Warner Bros. had both a good and bad weekend as IT Chapter Two delivered a strong enough second weekend to retain its number one spot with nearly $40 million, dipping just 55% from its opening weekend and pushing the domestic total to over $153 million. The horror sequel also added another $47 million internationally for a global total that now sits at $323.3 million with both films in the franchise having now grossed over $1.02 billion worldwide on a collective production budget of only $60 million. Not bad, clown. On the other side of things though is the studios other new release, The Goldfinch, which bombed heavily by delivering one of the worst opening weekends ever for a wide release with only $2.6 million from over 2,500 locations; that performance is the sixth worst ever for a film debuting in that many locations. I've yet to see the film, but was heavily anticipating it as director John Crowley's previous film, Brooklyn, was one of my favorites the year it was released. I still look forward to seeing The Goldfinch, but both the poor box office and harsh reviews certainly put a damper on my expectations. Meanwhile, STX Entertainment's Hustlers burst onto the scene with strong word of mouth out of the Toronto International Film Festival last week to deliver the studio's largest opening in its short history with an excellent $33.2 million debut topping STX's previous record-holder, 2016's Bad Moms which opened with $23.8 million. Believe it or not, Hustlers is also the largest live-action debut for Jennifer Lopez as well, speeding past the $23.1 million opening for Monster-in-Law in 2005. Not surprising is the fact the film seemed to play as a "girl's night" favorite given the strong women's empowerment themes as the film's opening weekend audience was made up of 67% female with 69% of that crowd being aged 25 or older. The film presently sits at a strong 88% on RottenTomatoes while opening day audiences gave the film a "B-" CinemaScore. In short, it's not hard to imagine Hustlers landing anywhere in between the $100 to $120 million mark as its final domestic tally. As always, be sure to follow the official TAVERN TALK by Initial Reaction YouTube channel as well as on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter where you can find a new review (or reviews) each week!

HUSTLERS Review

"This is a story about control, my control; control of what I say, control of what I do and this time I'm gonna do it my way. I hope you enjoy this as much as I do. Are we ready?" And so begins the title track to Janet Jackson's fourth studio record, 1986's Control. It is of no happy accident that this is also how writer/director Lorene Scafaria's Hustlers opens as we are introduced to Constance Wu's Dorothy AKA Destiny, the "new girl" at a strip club in New York City where the women are fast and the money is loose. There's no real introduction to speak of in terms of who Destiny was up to this point in her life, but more Scafaria's screenplay-taken from Jessica Pressler's 2015 New York Magazine article-tells us this is who she is now and despite whatever it might have been that brought her to this point it is now that she is finally ready to take some...ahem, control...of her life. It is more this mentality we are first and foremost introduced to than it is necessarily the character of Destiny, which is why it makes complete sense that she immediately recognizes in Ramona (Jennifer Lopez) an opportunity. Ramona is the headliner of this strip club if you will-the one all the wall street guys pay to see-and Ramona barely has to remove a piece of clothing in order to cover up what is already bare with the cash that is thrown her way. Scafaria and Lopez (along with many choreographers, camera operators and set designers) craft an introduction to the character that not only elicits every single reason Lopez became and has remained a star, but it also illustrates very clearly why-even in the most vulnerable of situations-Ramona has absolute confidence in herself and in her ability to gain...control...of a situation. Ramona commands the room and everyone else in that room knows she commands it which is why Lopez is perfect for the role, but this quality also serves as the reason Destiny, with almost zero hesitation, walks up to Ramona and asks her to mentor her. It is in Destiny that Ramona also sees opportunity: a new, young, beautiful Asian girl is an asset in anyone's hands, but in Ramona's she can set in motion a string of clients that will garner them both a fair amount of cash flow. It is from this initial meeting that Hustlers dives into examining how these women-who are regarded as little more than insignificant pawns on a chess board-are more in control than that of the Wall Street types who fancy themselves the kings, bishops and knights. That is, until the control becomes more about power and Destiny and Ramona's scheme-much like the film itself- begins to fall apart; the weight of what has been taken on becoming too mangled to maintain in any effective manner.   

Tavern Talk: Video Review - IT CHAPTER TWO

IT Chapter Two kicked off the fall box office season with a strong $91 million debut though it failed to match the first film's $123 million opening back in 2017. On a more granular level, IT Chapter Two debuted in 4,570 theaters over the weekend with a per theater average of $19,926 while its predecessor earned about $10,000 more per theater on opening weekend in roughly 500 fewer theaters. There is also the running time to consider as Chapter Two runs ten minutes short of three hours (trailers and commercials not included) while the first film was a notable half hour shorter if not slightly more. Whether this had an impact on the number of shows theaters held is indeterminable as is the number of tickets bought to other movies by underage teens who then snuck into this finale, but the point of it all being that while IT Chapter Two might not have risen to the heights of its predecessor it was still well within expectations, ranking as the second largest horror opening of all-time behind only its companion film. Furthermore, 2017's IT remains the only horror film to ever open with more than $100 million meaning these two films now rank as the first and second largest openings for both a horror film as well as the first and second largest September openings of all-time. Now the question will be how much can Chapter Two leg it to? The first film finished with a domestic total of $327 million with $372 million more coming if from the rest of the world for a global cume of over $700 million. Odds are Chapter Two won't reach those heights, but as far as domestic totals go it's not hard to see the film crossing the $200 million mark-maybe even going as high as $240 million; this is especially true if the competition is right through the rest of the month (Ad Astra, Rambo, and Judy are among the other movies for adults opening in September with no other horror releases to speak of until Joker on October 4th) and into the midst of Halloween season. On the plus side, the film also received a "B+" CinemaScore from opening weekend audiences, the same as the original film, meaning prospects should be largely positive per word of mouth. Internationally, IT Chapter Two opened in 75 markets and delivered $94 million, giving the film a $185 million global opening. As always, be sure to follow the official TAVERN TALK by Initial Reaction YouTube channel as well as on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter where you can find a new review (or reviews) each week!

Final Trailer for DOCTOR SLEEP Starring Ewan McGregor

It's been five or six years since I've seen Stanley Kubrick's The Shining and while it's certainly one of those movie experiences that stays with you I'll definitely be refreshing my memory when it comes to Kubrick's horror classic before venturing into director Mike Flanagan's (The Haunting of Hill House, Ouija: Origin of Evil) adaptation of Stephen King's sequel to both his and Kubrick's seminal work. The story of how Doctor Sleep, the novel, came to be is fairly interesting given in December of 2009, King posted a poll on his official website asking fans to vote for which book he should write next, Doctor Sleep or the next Dark Tower novel. The poll closed on December 31, 2009, when it was revealed that Doctor Sleep won by a mere forty-nine votes. King then posted an update confirming Doctor Sleep was in the works in 2011 and that the plot included a traveling group of psychic vampires called "The True Knot". Eventually, Doctor Sleep was published on September 24, 2013 and now-almost forty years after the release of Kubrick's film which King himself remains disappointed in-we have this film adaptation of the thirty-six year-later sequel King wrote to his original book. All of that said, it would seem a delicate situation to try and craft a movie sequel to said seminal work not only for the reason that The Shining is considered one of the greatest horror films ever made, but also because a sequel is largely only ever just a sequel-"the second one"-and will forever live in the shadow of that original. So, the question is, "how does one combat that? Does one even try?" While I haven't read King's sequel and have no idea as to the critical response or how it was received by general consumers (or, for that matter, how the original novel was received as the film adaptation has always overshadowed the original work in my lifetime) it is comforting to know that someone as well revered and well seasoned in the horror genre as Flanagan is the one who was given the keys to build this castle. Like I said, I haven't read either of King's novels and its been a few years since I've seen The Shining, but as a horror film in and of itself this final trailer Warner Bros. has released offers an intriguing premise and spooky atmosphere outside of its promise of returning to the Overlook Hotel. Doctor Sleep stars Ewan McGregor, Rebecca Ferguson, Kyliegh Curran, Carl Lumbly, Jacob Tremblay, Cliff Curtis, Bruce Greenwood, Emily Alyn Lind and arrives in theaters on November 8, 2019.

IT CHAPTER TWO Review

IT Chapter Two is a film with great vision, while also being one that lacks focus. This lack of an anchor, or heart-if you will-is the source of much frustration as it's clear director Andy Muschietti has great ambition for what he not only wants his adaptation to be, but represent; this is to be the modern day equivalent of The Shining, a Marvel-esque sized accomplishment in the horror genre, but while the mission is clear and the intent appreciated it seems Muschietti's bloated sequel to his 2017 introduction to the Losers Club bit off more than it could chew. Rather than purely being the twenty-seven year-later sequel it was assumed to be, IT Chapter Two largely operates in a fashion where the first, more endearing chapter, didn't have to exist. It's nice that it does and of the two is the better film, but this is because that movie-while still sprawling in its scope-didn't have to deal in two separate timelines, didn't have to fully dissect the characters, but more just plant the seeds for them and it didn't have to somehow shoehorn in a story about an ancient ritual that would defeat this cosmic entity that we come to know is Pennywise the dancing clown. In other words, Muschietti's predecessor had the ability to focus on its characters in both its heroes and its antagonist while developing the undesirable, but sometimes symbiotic relationship between the two. In Chapter Two, Muschietti and his editor, Jason Ballantine, never find the necessary groove to make everything the film is trying to accomplish flow with the comprehension necessary to lend the film that needed focus, that necessary anchor that gives the viewer something specific to latch onto so that it connects to-if not everything the film is trying to do-at least one thing that will make it feel more personal and therefore more haunting. IT Chapter Two is such a film of fits and starts that it's almost impossible to find any one thing to latch onto at all, but lucky for us Chapter Two does in fact boast a game cast of adult Losers that make the jumbled narrative bearable while Muschietti's visual prowess remains on impressive display throughout. Furthermore, Bill Skarsgård's performance as Pennywise is still gold, but even in this regard the filmmakers don't take as much advantage of the performance as they should-layering in CGI and not allowing Skarsgård's disturbing portrayal to truly breathe. Like a buffet plate that's loaded with everything that looked good, IT Chapter Two ends up a pile of parts with a single bite out of each-nothing fully digested leaving the consumer full, but not satisfied.

First Trailer for BAD BOYS FOR LIFE Starring Will Smith & Martin Lawrence

There were a mere eight years between 1995's Bad Boys and 2003's Bad Boys II, so believe me when I say I'd thought the expiration date had long since passed for us to get that much requested third film to round out a trilogy of Bad Boys films featuring Will Smith's Mike Lowery and Martin Lawrence's Marcus Burnett and yet...here we are. I'm still somewhat in shock this movie actually exists, has been shot and now has a release date and trailer. It's real and for better or worse in terms of the final result, it feels so good to see Smith and Lawrence together again. Bad Boys II came out the summer after I turned sixteen and though I'd seen plenty of action flicks before, Bad Boys II felt like the be all end all to big, gluttonous R-rated action that just blew me away with its scope, its style, its comedy and everything in between. And while it's taken seventeen years, "better late than never" is the mantra we're going with here as new series directors Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah were brought in to try and replicate the aesthetic and energy of Michael Bay from a screenplay by Joe Carnahan and Chris Bremner, with a story credit going to Peter Craig (The Town). Carnahan was originally set to direct this third installment, which I think would have been a wise choice given the typical bonkers nature of his movies (Smokin' Aces, The A-Team, Stretch) mixed with the general credibility he lends them in terms of emotional investment, but El Arbi and Fallah seem to have continuing franchises on lock down as they'll next be directing Beverly Hills Cop 4. One can only hope this bodes well for the quality of Bad Boys for Lif3 (I don't know if that's how we're officially writing it, but I like it), but as of right now this trailer delivers everything I could hope to get from a Bad Boys movie in that Smith and Lawrence look to be in good form, the action feels like a priority and they're undoubtedly busting some kind of drug ring; opposing styles/personalities be damned. Bad Boys For Life also stars Vanessa Hudgens, Alexander Ludwig, Charles Melton, Paola Nunez, Kate Del Castillo, Nicky Jam, Joe Pantoliano and opens on January 17, 2020.

MOVIES I WANNA SEE MOST: FALL 2019

Per usual, there are a lot of things to be excited for this fall at the movies. I'd like to state up front that when I say "fall" in terms of movie-going seasons that "fall" will be defined as beginning next week, the first weekend of September, through to the end of the year. This actually makes it more difficult to narrow down my most anticipated releases into a short ten as there are releases the first three weeks of September that I've been looking forward to the majority of the year, but I’ll hold off on those until I actually get to the list. Furthermore, I want to provide some context for this list by stating that the ten movies I’ve picked are the ten movies I would want to see most if I could only see ten more movies for the remainder of the year; if I were only allowed to enter a theater ten more times in 2019 these are the ten I would pick to see on those visits. Sure, there are things like Terminator: Dark Fate, Zombieland: Double Tap, the new Jumanji film and Frozen II that I’m excited for and interested to see for one reason or another, but if I don’t know that any of those would necessarily make the cut if it were an absolute scenario such as the one I'm putting myself in for the sake of widdling down the release schedule to the ten titles I'm actually most anticipating. What I do want to do first though, is go through some of the movies that aren’t going to make my list, but that I think deserve to be highlighted as they have a lot of promise and one can only hope they turn out to be as fantastic as they look.

Tavern Talk: Video Review - READY OR NOT

Color me surprised as I genuinely expected this past weekend in box office news to turn out the opposite of what it actually did. Who knew people wanted more of Gerard Butler's Mike Banning rescuing the President than they did another indie horror flick? To be fair, the odds for both headliners going into the weekend seemed about even, but given the quality and good time Ready or Not turned out to be, not to mention the fact it's an original movie with a cast featuring no marquee names, I was rooting for the little horror movie that could. In the end, Angel Has Fallen-the third film in the "fallen" franchise (is that what we're calling it?) was able to garner $21.4 million outperforming expectations despite it being the smallest opening in the franchise as it was just shy of London Has Fallen's $21.6 million debut. That said, Angel is the first in the series to debut at #1 after both of the previous installments landed in the runner-up position (Olympus opening against The Croods in 2013 and London opening against Zootopia in 2016). The release dates for these previous installments were both in earlier frames of the year though, and given Angel opened in the doldrums of August, after the summer movie season has expired, it had no such competition to deal with. What's even more baffling is the fact Angel joined its predecessors in earning an "A-" CinemaScore while scoring 94% RottenTomatoes audience score. What?!?! Olympus was fine (White House Down was better) and London was next to awful while Angel at least looked to be like little more than your run of the mill, mid-budget action flick, but you guys are going to make me make time for this aren't you? Anywho, we're here to talk about Ready or Not, which debuted last Tuesday night and entered the weekend with just over $3 million after its first two days of release. Once we hit the weekend though, the likes of Good Boys, Sony and AFFIRM's Overcomer, The Lion King and Hobbs & Shaw were too much for the little Fox Searchlight film that could. Of note, the film played in 2,855 locations and brought in just over $8 million for a five day performance just over $11 million. While that number is slightly below expectations, the film received great reviews and received a "B+" CinemaScore as well as having an opening weekend audience that consisted of 53% female with 79% of coming in under the age of 35-which should bode well for the film this coming weekend where no other major releases are slated. As always, be sure to follow the official TAVERN TALK by Initial Reaction YouTube channel as well as on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter where you can find a new review (or reviews) each week! 

Final Trailer for JOKER Starring Joaquin Phoenix

Joaquin Phoenix enters the super hero genre with what is probably the only role he could ever have entered 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 with Old School and Starsky & Hutch before going on to become better known for The 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 final trailer? The seventies-set New York crime drama feels visceral in a way that transcends the legacy of the character making it feel that Joker, like The Dark Knight, will simply be a strong genre film that just so happens to also feature characters inspired by comic books. This is easily my most anticipated film of the year and it will be hard to forgive all those seeing it early on the film festival circuit as us general movie-goers have to wait another month until Joker hits theaters on October 4th, 2019.

READY OR NOT Review

It's hard to pin down the exact moment in a movie when said movie becomes so assured of itself that it's seemingly firing on all cylinders in the exact way the filmmaker(s) intended; some movies are lucky to have such moments at all, but the really special ones are lucky enough to have them early in the runtime-immediately displaying a confidence so unwavering in what it is and what it intends to be that the audience knows what they're in for from the word go. Ready or Not, the new feature from directing duo Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett (V/H/S segment "10/31/98"), is one of those movies that you feel instantly knows not only what it wants to be, but exactly how it's going to become that thing. This is apparent not only from the sentiments expressed through the opening credits sequence, but in the initial introductions between each of the characters we promptly get a sense of. From the first scene in which we meet Samara Weaving's Grace we understand who she is as an individual and from the given interaction with her fiancé, Alex (Mark O'Brien), gather how she feels about joining this dynasty of a family as well as the institution of marriage in general; there's a coolness to her that defaults to playing down particularly major events in her life for fear of getting her hopes up too much and/or ultimately being disappointed. The reasons for this become evident the more we learn about Grace's past, but even throughout the remainder of the Le Domas clan the family dynamics are so well defined that the way in which these people operate-even when it comes to attempting to kill the newest member of their family-isn't completely unexpected, but instead each of these characters demonstrate what we assume about them from the precedent they've already set. It is in these rooted characterizations defined from the beginning that also allows for the tension to meld effortlessly with the comedy of the piece; brutal to its core with as much blood as a Tarantino feature, Ready or Not fuses that tricky tone of violence and irreverence into a wild, ninety-minute experience. This isn't anything you haven't seen before, especially if you keep current with the horror genre, but it is so aware of what it is and so expertly crafted to be the best version of itself that everything about it feels original and raw.     

Tavern Talk: Video Review - GOOD BOYS

In a summer dominated by Disney, Universal Pictures is breathing something akin to a sigh of relief at the moment as the new, R-rated comedy Good Boys helped propel them to a third straight week where one of their pictures sat atop the domestic box office. And actually, with Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw still holding strong in second, Universal held the top two spots at the box office this week. Good Boys was among another crop of several new releases last week though as not only did five new wide releases open the week prior, but they were joined by another handful this week that included The Angry Birds Movie 2, 47 Meters Down: Uncaged, the Bruce Springsteen-inspired Blinded by the Light and Richard Linklater's Where'd You Go, Bernadette starring Cate Blanchett. While Good Boys delivered above expectations though, the rest of these wide releases were largely disappointments this weekend as Angry Birds only earned $16 million over the course of its first six days (Sony actually released this last Tuesday) as compared to the $38 million its predecessor opened with over three days in 2016. The unnecessary 47 Meters Down sequel (and I liked the first one!) couldn't crack the top five barely mustering a $9 million debut (less than the original's $11 million opening weekend number) while the well-reviewed indie that is Blinded by the Light barely cracked the top ten with only $4.45 million over its first three days on a reported budget of $15 million. Worse off was the Annapurna-produced and United Artist's release of Where'd You Go, Bernadette which finished with only $3.46 million in the eleventh place spot. As for the good news though, Good Boys earned $21.4 million over its opening weekend, easily recouping its $20 million production budget. The film, which is only the third original feature this year alongside Us (another Universal film) and The Curse of La Llorona (which is loosely tied to the Conjuring movies) to top the box office and with strong reviews and a good general reception, the film currently sits at an 88% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes and received a "B+" CinemaScore from opening day audiences, it's not hard to see Good Boys legging it to a $60 million-plus domestic finish especially given the lack of competition in the upcoming weeks. On Tavern Talk this week we were lucky enough to have filmmakers and NYU Grad Students Tara Sheffer and Bianca di Marco join us to discuss the film as well as their upcoming project. Hit the link after the jump to support Tara's new film, My Dear God, and as always-be sure to follow the official TAVERN TALK by Initial Reaction YouTube channel as well as on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter where you can find a new review (or reviews) each week!