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.

First Trailer for TOP GUN: MAVERICK Starring Tom Cruise

It has been some time since I've sat down and actually watched Toy Scott's 1986 action/drama centered around students at the United States Navy's elite fighter school who competed to be best in the class, with one daring young pilot learning a few things not taught in the classroom and yet I'm still anxious to see how that once daring young pilot has evolved in what will be thirty-four years since that original next summer. Tom Cruise is obviously reprising his role in the long-awaited follow-up to Top Gun, but after Scott's untimely death in 2012 it seemed the sequel became even more of an uncertainty. It's kind of amazing that everything aligned in order for this film to have come to exist, but here we are and less than a year from now everyone who loved all the music, motorcyclin' and volleyballin' of the original will seemingly be in for another treat as director Joseph Kosinski (who worked with Cruise on Oblivion, but has also made Tron: Legacy and the severely under seen Only the Brave) has included all of this and more in his follow-up. As penned by Peter Craig (12 Strong), Justin Marks (Counterpoint), and Eric Warren Singer (American Hustle), with a little help from long-time Cruise collaborator, Christopher McQuarrie, who was brought in after the fact to work on the script next to nothing is known about the plot of the film, but what we do know is that Val Kilmer will return as Iceman, Miles Teller will be playing the role of the now-adult son of Anthony Edwards' Goose, and that Glen Powell so impressed producers during his audition for the role of Goose's son that they created a new, different character just for him. Next to these scant details, this first trailer for the film gives us a real glimpse at the tone and aesthetic Kosinski has captured and while the imagery is familiar it possesses a modern sheen-especially in the aerial shots that place us right alongside Cruise's Maverick in the cockpit-that give it that Kosinski trademark look. Cruise also seems to be somewhat relishing getting the opportunity to play a more hardened version of this character as this clip hints at a narrative concerning a man unable to move on and a world that is set to leave him behind. I can't wait to see this thing in IMAX. Top Gun: Maverick also stars Jennifer Connelly, Jon Hamm, Lewis Pullman, Ed Harris and opens on June 26th, 2020.

Official Trailer for IT: CHAPTER TWO

Scoring the largest opening weekend for an R-rated movie ever, then continuing to perform week after week ultimately taking in over $700 million worldwide, the runaway success of 2017's IT gave director Andy Muschietti’s sequel the luxury of an A-list ensemble and plenty of time to develop and shoot it.  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, 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 are now adults, so I think there might be an even more vicious Pennywise.” And given some of the voiceover in this new, final trailer for the epic horror film it seems this is nothing short of accurate. 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, these two films seemingly set themselves apart from your typical trash horror flicks from the get-go as Muschietti’s objective is aimed at being more illustrious than is typically seen in the horror genre and in pulling off this level of grandeur really well in that first film it only creates 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 - STUBER

In what will be the last lull week of the summer until mid-August or so, Spider-Man: Far From Home repeated as the number one movie at the box office bringing in $45.3 million, for a 51% drop as the film presently sits at just over $280 million domestic. The film also added $100 million overseas this past weekend, for a global total that is now just shy of $850 million or $150 million away from a billion after only seventeen days in release. Far from Home's current international total of $570 million makes it the highest grossing Spider-Man movie internationally, besting Spider-Man 3's $555 million overseas total as well. Disney and Pixar's Toy Story 4 held in the second place spot for the second weekend in a row, dipping only 39% in its fourth week of release for a $20.94 million haul. This gives the film a domestic total thus far of nearly $350 million, now making it the fifth largest Pixar release of all-time domestically. Internationally, Toy Story 4 added $48.1 million for a $427 million total and a global tally that has now topped $775 million. It is in the third and fourth place spots that we finally get to the weekend's new releases as Paramount's R-rated alligator thriller Crawl, debuted with a somewhat surprising $12 million. As of today, Crawl has likely surpassed its budget domestically with a total of $13.3 million as of Monday on an estimated budget of $13.5 million. The film has also opened in a few markets internationally and has garnered nearly $5 million for a global total just over $18 million. Given the surprisingly good word of mouth on this one I'm eager to check it out and see how much fun it is. In our review this week, we discussed Disney's release of Fox's R-rated comedy Stuber which unfortunately stumbled in fourth place as it now sits at just over $8 million on a reported budget of $16 million. The film received a "B" CinemaScore from opening day audiences which could translate to something akin to legs as the broad comedy won't really have any competition in the genre until August 16th's Good Boys (unless you count Hobbs & Shaw), but by that point the theater count on this thing will be so dismal it almost doesn't matter. Internationally, Stuber opened in nine markets to almost $3 million placing it just shy of $12 million globally. 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 HUSTLERS Starring Jennifer Lopez

The first trailer for STX Films' Hustlers starring Jennifer Lopez, Crazy Rich Asians' Constance Wu, Keke Palmer and Riverdale's Lili Reinhart has arrived and outside of being known as the movie where J.Lo plays a stripper this is also writer/director Lorene Scafaria's highest profile project since her very good, but little seen 2012 film, Seeking a Friend for the End of the World. The director also made 2015's The Meddler with Susan Sarandon and Rose Byrne which I recall having to miss when attending that year's Toronto International Film Festival and never following-up with later, but that is all beside the point as Scafaria has now adapted Jessica Pressler's New York Magazine article “The Hustlers at Scores” and rounded up quite the all-star cast to bring to life this outlandish true story. The film tells the story of a group of strippers who band together to turn the tables on their Wall Street clients, and made bank in the process. Set in the late 2000's in New York City in the wake of the financial crisis, Scafaria's film will deal explicitly with the toll it took on this group of dancers who relied on their wall street clientele for big pay days. In this Robin Hood-like story, Lopez plays the ringleader of this group who take their plans of getting their full cut a little too far. Now, I'm sure the film will get a lot of attention for the fact it has Lopez twirling around on a pole in skimpy outfits, not to mention the rest of the cast, but having a woman at the helm of the project will seemingly only amplify the point of how each sex has to hustle in their own ways given the body they were born with and these women simply had to out-hustle a different type of hustler than themselves; the type who couldn't resist a body "with the sort of waist-to-hip ratio scientists have concluded affects men like a drug." In short, this very much looks to be a gangster drama of the Scorsese variety, but where the gangsters just also happen to be strippers and while I feel a little sorry for Andrea Berloff's The Kitchen which has similar aspirations and opens a month earlier it seems Hustlers has more of a hook that might get the buzz buzzing a little bit louder. Hustlers also stars Cardi B, Lizzo, Julia Stiles, Madeline Brewer, Stormi Maya, Frank Whaley, Usher Raymond, and opens on September 13th, 2019.

Tavern Talk: Video Review - SPIDER-MAN: FAR FROM HOME & MIDSOMMAR

Dropping movies in the middle of the week to account for a holiday and in turn, holiday crowds, always shakes things up a bit and this summer the box office needed a little shaking up after a series of franchise disappointments in June. Of course, it goes without much knowledge of the film industry that July was likely going to open with a franchise addition as well and one would be correct as the big release of last week was director Jon Watts' follow-up to 2017's Spider-Man: Homecoming, but more importantly-the first Marvel Cinematic Universe film after April's Avengers: Endgame. In Far From Home, the MCU deals with the fallout of Endgame in as skillfully a way as they probably could have-maybe even eschewing the more serious ramifications for now as many of the burning questions fans had after Endgame are resolved in quick bits of teen comedy. Saving more of that for my eventual review though, let's talk about how the film did financially. Going wide last Tuesday, July 2nd, Far From Home began its run with a $91 million Tuesday to Thursday haul while topping that over the traditional three-day weekend with an almost $93 million Friday to Sunday total. This gave the film a six-day start of over $185 million domestically to which it has since earned an additional $10 million while internationally, the webslinger delivered $244 million from 66 markets last weekend after opening in a few markets the week before for an overseas cume of $392 million and a global tally that now sits atop $588 million. This domestic performance accounted for the largest six-day opening for a Tuesday release on top of the film already delivering the largest Tuesday opening day ever, so...in other words, Marvel continues its streak of critically and commercially successful film as Far From Home also garnered a 90% on RottenTomatoes. Finishing just outside the top five was the other big release last week in A24's Midsommar, delivering $7.35 million for Tuesday to Thursday time frame, $6.56 over the traditional weekend, while finishing with nearly $11 million over the full five-day frame. While our reviewers here at TAVERN TALK by Initial Reaction both gave the film a superior five stars, Midsommar received a "C+" CinemaScore from opening day audiences, which-while not great-is actually an improvement over writer/director Ari Aster's Hereditary, which enjoyed a solid box office multiplier last June. The nearly two and a half hour runtime likely doesn't help with how many screenings people have the option of attending either, but Hereditary garnered some solid word of mouth over the course of its run and it will be interesting to see what the discussion around Midsommar will be and if it will factor into the film's box office at all. 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 JUMANJI: THE NEXT LEVEL

In a not-so-surprising turn, Sony has released the first, full length trailer for the sequel to their Christmas 2017 smash, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, the day before Spider-Man: Far From Home officially opens. Given Welcome to the Jungle is Sony's all-time top domestic earner and the film earned an insane $962 million worldwide two years ago it was a no-brainer the studio would pump out a sequel as soon as it could, but while this may feel slightly rushed in terms of attempting to capitalize on this surprise sequel, the studio was able to gather back all of the original cast members as well as director Jake Kasdan with the most surprising part being that the two (returning) screenwriters, Scott Rosenberg and Jeff Pinkner, have seemingly cooked up a story that will change things up enough from the previous film while still utilizing the aspects that made that film work so well in the first place. That is to say, Sony can seemingly keep this franchise going as long as they want given the avatars are the stars of the film and not the human counterparts who become trapped in said board/video game. To boot, the idea of having Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Jack Black, and Karen Gillan being able to adopt different personalities in each movie depending on who gets sucked into the game is a great concept and one the studio and filmmakers could have a lot of fun with over the course of a few more sequels. In Jumanji: The Next Level, our real-world friends from the previous film return to Jumanji to rescue one of their own but discover that nothing is as they expect. The players need to brave parts unknown, from arid deserts to snowy mountains, in order to escape the world's most dangerous game. Of course, the hook here is that Hart and Johnson are no longer playing polar opposite high school kids, but two curmudgeonly old friends in the form of Danny DeVito and Danny Glover. Needless to say, Johnson and Hart doing impressions of DeVito and Glover is the last thing I thought I needed in my life, but after today I need it more than most things. This should be another fun adventure flick with a strong re-watchability factor and I can't wait to see what Kasdan and crew have in store this Christmas. Jumanji: The Next Level also sees the return of Alex Wolff, Madison Iseman, Morgan Turner, Ser'Darius Blain, Nick Jonas, Rhys Darby, and Colin Hanks while Awkwafina and Dania Ramirez join the cast as the film is set to open on December 13th, 2019.

ANNABELLE COMES HOME Review

Annabelle Comes Home, the third film in this particular series and seventh in the ongoing “Conjuring universe” is either as good or mediocre as one might expect it to be depending on their level of expectation walking in. For someone such as myself, someone who hasn’t seen either of the previous Annabelle features due to the poor reputation of the first, but also enjoys an entertaining horror flick with a sly sense of humor Annabelle Comes Home turned out to be something of a bonkers, go-for-broke genre flick that ends up being a lot of fun due to the fact expectations dictated this would be no fun at all. Those going in expecting anything more might be slightly underwhelmed given the typical beats the slim outline of a story adheres to as well as a certain lack of grimness that typically permeates from this series. With such tempered expectations though, it’s not difficult to see why the trio of McKenna Grace, Madison Iseman, and Katie Sarife become so endearing to the point all the mini-teasers for every other upcoming “Conjuring universe” movie hardly countered the sympathy the audience builds for each of the three girls simple yet effective character arcs. As executed by Conjuring-verse writer and first-time feature director Gary Dauberman, Annabelle Comes Home might make you wonder what the budget on fog machines alone was, but it also genuinely escalates in a way that by the time the film reaches the aforementioned gonzo third act it feels earned and not simply like an obligation. Additionally, Dauberman does a fine job of imitating James Wan's (Saw, Insidious, The Conjuring) sweeping sense of menace as the first-time filmmaker opts for more practical scares than CGI spirits. There is a glaring exception to this no CGI rule in the "Black Shuck" folktale from the British Isles, but otherwise Dauberman and his team use a combination of elaborate make-up, simple camera tricks, and some of the most intense sound design ever configured in order to not just create these creatures, but truly craft their presence. Furthermore, it is in both the attention to and appreciation of detail at the level executed here that Annabelle Comes Home turns out to be less a rote reel of horror cliches and more a fun twist on the "house of horrors" concept; the scares getting increasingly more elaborate the deeper one goes while feeling more a rush of excitement and adrenaline as opposed to actual terror by the time it comes to an end. 

Tavern Talk: Video Review - TOY STORY 4

As stated last week in this post, it was expected that after the general downturn in profit and excitement for Godzilla: King of the Monsters, X-Men: Dark Phoenix, and MIB: International that Toy Story 4 would reverse the case of sequelitis that was plaguing the summer of 2019 and to some extent...that was true. The $200 million Disney/Pixar production debuted with $118 million over the weekend and marked the largest opening in the franchise's history, but also came in well below expectations as well as the openings of other recent Pixar sequels such as last year's Incredibles II ($183 million) and Finding Dory ($135 million) in 2016. Furthermore, Toy Story 4's opening would be less than Toy Story 3's $110 million opened weekend in 2019 adjusted for inflation. With the studio setting their expectations around the $140 million mark prior to the weekend, the pundits went even higher given the film was generating rave reviews, scoring a 98% on RottenTomatoes and an 83 on Metacritic, that were reported to be coupled with record-breaking pre-sale figures per Fandango.com which stated the film was outperforming the sales of Incredibles II. All that to say, an opening north of at least $160 million didn't seem out of the question. So what happened? Per Forbes' Scott Mendelson this seems to be due to the fact that, among other things, "this wasn't the long-awaited second installment of Brad Bird's Incredibles series, nor was it the somewhat surprising first/only sequel to Andrew Stanton's Finding Nemo. This was the fourth Toy Story movie, one existing after the rather perfect series finale that was the final scene of Toy Story 3." And this makes sense, this has been a series going on for some twenty-four years now and while all three of the previous Toy Story films undoubtedly get repeat plays in the average home with children the age of their target audience-those children also have more Pixar options now and more specifically, Pixar options that are exclusively "theirs". All of this taken into consideration, the film is still the fourth-biggest animated launch of all-time and adheres to Pixar's general rule of quality that it will likely equate to strong legs over the next month until The Lion King opens. In other new release news, the Child's Play re-make came in second with an estimated $14 million on a reported budget of around $10 million which is good news considering the film received a "C+" CinemaScore from opening day audiences suggesting this thing will fall like your typical horror flick over the next few weeks. The only other major release of the week was Luc Besson's Anna which opened outside the top ten as the Lionsgate release of the Summit action/thriller debuted to $3.5 million on a reported budget of $30 million. On the plus side, the film did receive a "B+" CinemaScore, so maybe there is a shot at life in a post-theatrical run? What did you see this weekend? Let us know in the comments 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!

TOY STORY 4 Review

Toy Story 4 is necessary. Know that first and foremost, that not only is Toy Story 4 a necessary addition to the franchise that launched Pixar, but a meaningful one as well. One wouldn't be at fault for thinking the animation studio has been somewhat off its game over the past few years as it turned into a sequel factory of sorts and churned out entertaining enough diversions to more creatively satisfying original films as that's kind of the fact of the matter save for the occasional Inside Out or Coco. Since Toy Story 3 in 2010 Disney and Pixar have released ten films counting this latest Toy sequel and of those ten films six have been prequels or sequels. These have all been of a certain quality, mind you-as even the third Cars film allowed Pixar's most underwhelming franchise to go out on more of a high note than not-and yet, Toy Story 4 feels like the true return to form the studio needed and that audiences were waiting on. With original creative mastermind John Lasseter only credited as a story contributor among a barrage of other contributors it was up to screenwriters Andrew Stanton (Finding Nemo, WALL-E) and Stephany Folsom to crack the story as Inside Out screenwriter and frequent Pixar voice actor Josh Cooley was tasked with his feature directorial debut being the fourth installment in this consistently excellent series. No easy task, but to circle back to the beginning of this review is to reiterate that the most difficult obstacle to overcome with a fourth Toy Story film would be that of justifying its existence. Toy Story 3 ended in such a way that it not only wrapped up the story of these toys and the child they'd belonged to for as long as either of them could remember, but it gave closure to those who'd grown up with the first two films and were now transitioning into adulthood themselves. Almost another decade later and the characters of this world are as endearing as ever with Stanton and Folsom's narrative zeroing in on Woody (voice of Tom Hanks) as he learns that being in charge doesn't always mean being in control. While there were seeds of doubt as to whether or not Cooley and the gang (ah thank you) could find what more there was to be said with these characters and this world, what transpires in Toy Story 4 ultimately provides the necessary comfort to the truth spoken by Toy Story 3; if that previous film eased the transition from adolescence to adulthood then this latest (and presumably final?) film discusses how one adapts to their new role in a mature and positive way.

Tavern Talk: Video Review - MEN IN BLACK: INTERNATIONAL

The summer seems to have taken a turn for the more "relaxed" as, for what feels like the third straight weekend in a row, the supposed "big" release of the week has come in below expectations. In the tradition of Godzilla and Dark Phoenix, MIB: International went into the weekend with Sony projecting a modest $30 million return and that is right where it landed hitting just over the mark with $30,035,838 in weekend actuals. This is the lowest opening in the franchise by over $20 million as all three previous installments opened over $51 million. Luckily, Sony budgeted responsibly with the $110 million production as International fared better...well, internationally. With $73.7 million from thirty-six markets, the film had a global debut just over $102 million and with a few weeks worth of breathing room as far as target demo is concerned Sony should simply hope they recoup the marketing budget in the next two weeks and then hand this one over to the cable/satellite companies to replay until they convince us we really missed out on something with this one. Disney/Pixar's Toy Story 4 opens this week and only another Annabelle and Danny Boyle film open next week, so it's possible. Of course, Toy Story 4 is set to invade 4,500+ theaters this weekend which will undoubtedly cut down on the some 4,200 screens MIB opened on last week. The other major new release of the week, 2019's Shaft, starring Richard Roundtree, Samuel L. Jackson, and third generation Shaft, Jessie T. Usher, finished outside the top five. Warner Bros. was expecting the film to debut around the $15 million mark, but was only able to muster $8.9 million from its 2,952 locations. While the budget is unknown on this one I kind of doubt we'll be seeing another Shaft feature any time soon. Both Late Night, Amazon Studios big purchase out of Sundance this year, and Jim Jarmusch's zombie comedy The Dead Don't Die expanded this past weekend as well with the former coming in at number nine with $5.1 million and $8.2 million overall-not great given Amazon paid $13 million for it out of the festival-while the latter opened outside the top ten and will, by default, be Jarmusch's biggest film to date as The Dead Don't Die has now earned $6.3 million worldwide on a budget that can't have been much more than that if that much at all. 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!

MEN IN BLACK: INTERNATIONAL Review

From the outset of director F. Gary Gray's (Straight Outta Compton, The Fate of the FuriousMen in Black re-boot one can gauge there is a certain indifference to the project and if not necessarily an indifference, but a lack of creative care towards the film. This can be gleaned from nothing more than the opening credits which only goes so far as to ape the font of the original without bothering to try and emulate the objective. The opening credit sequences of the Barry Sonnenfeld trilogy would each attempt to emphasize perspective in this world in which the Men in Black existed, whether it be seeing said world through the eyes of a flying "bug" or by actually playing with perspective so as to upend expectations and re-enforce that not everything is as it seems and furthermore, not everything is as we might assume. I recall these opening credit sequences because not only did they play into the story the rest of the movie would be telling, but they played into the themes of the whole series: that this, our world-no matter how big and alone it might seem to us at times, is actually only a small part of a much grander scheme. The majority of the first three MIB films take place in and around New York City and yet they do their best to emphasize time and time again how vast the universe is outside of themselves even if what is happening within the events of the film might have epic repercussions on this, our third rock from the sun. With MIB: International, despite going bigger in terms of operating on a global scale the film can't help but to feel much smaller-especially in comparison to that original film-both in terms of scale as well as its ideas. This is to say, the seemingly carefully plotted opening credits of the previous films are no more and have instead been replaced with text over the movie just as it would have played were the opening credits not present at all. This may feel rather finicky, but as it is noted that Gray and his team took little time to consider the legacy of the franchise and the little details that made the original so special-and more importantly, work as well as it did-it only makes it more clear as to why there isn't necessarily any care taken to carry said legacy forward in any meaningful way. Rather, MIB: International ends up feeling like exactly what it is: a rushed and uninspired riff on a proven formula that cares more about the how it's been received in the past as opposed to the why it was received that way in the first place.

Tavern Talk: Video Review - X-MEN: DARK PHOENIX

After the barrage of the likes of Avengers, Pokémon, John Wick, and Aladdin the expected shortcomings of Godzilla and now both Dark Phoenix and The Secret Life of Pets 2 could have been somewhat gauged after Aladdin took off more than anyone ever expected. Beyond making things more than curious for as to how this will pan out for this weekend's completely up in the air Men in Black re-boot it should also offer the reassurance once again that nothing is guaranteed. This is especially true in regards to the number one movie at the box office this weekend for, despite it being the number one movie at the box office, The Secret Life of Pets 2 opened to less than half of the opening weekend of the original film's $104.3 million (a record opening for an original, animated feature). With $46.6 million from 4,561 locations (the second widest opening ever only to Avengers: Endgame), the film will seemingly have a difficult time at getting to the comparable final totals of $150 or so domestic given we're in the middle of the summer movie season and the juggernaut that will be Toy Story 4 opens in less than a week and a half. Saving Pets 2 is the fact it kept its budget low at $80 million and has already garnered $49 million internationally for a present worldwide cume of $101 million. Pets 2 won't be a loss for Illumination, but we certainly won't be seeing any more sequels in this franchise. We reviewed the latest (and last) X-Men film under the 20th Century Fox banner though, which was an even bigger disappointment this weekend opening to only $33 million. This number makes it the first film in the X-Men franchise to fail to deliver a $50+ million opening and is $30 million less than the $65.7 million opening for X-Men: Apocalypse three years ago (which was disappointing in and of itself). Dark Phoenix could be looking at a total domestic cume under $100 million which be another first for the X-Men franchise, especially considering the CinemaScore was a whole letter grade less than Apocalypse with the film facing tough competition in the upcoming weeks including the likes of MIB: International this Friday and Spider-Man: Far From Home on July 2nd. Aladdin took third with $24.7 million, followed by Godzilla: King of the Monsters dropping a hard -67.5% for a $15.5 million second weekend. Rounding out the top five was the Elton John biopic, Rocketman, with a $13.8 million weekend giving it a domestic total of just over $50 million while adding another $13 million internationally for a total just over $51 million and a worldwide gross of over $101 million-not bad for $40 million production. 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: June 11, 2019

Official Trailer for FROZEN II

As the parent of a four and a half 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 their audience who saw Frozen at the time of its release is now six years older (and 6-12 is quite the gap), but at the same time my daughter wasn't born until nearly a year after the first film's release and still loves Anna and Elsa as much as any girl 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 (Olaf's Frozen Adventure was a fine enough holdover), but it seems Disney and particularly directors Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck (with Lee having penned both screenplays-this time with Hidden Figures scribe Allison Schroeder) are keen to mature the sequel with that of the audience who it was originally intended that originally saw it in theaters. That is to say that our first, full look at Frozen II offers a glimpse into what is not necessarily a darker/more grittier Arendelle, but rather a more fully realized existence within these characters in Arendelle meaning that while the events of the first film took both the characters and the viewer by storm with Elsa's powers and what they entailed and how they immediately affected the people around her and the kingdom she ruled given she'd been sentenced to hide them away forever the sequel seems to be getting more at the question of where did these powers come from in the first place and furthermore, just how powerful is Elsa? It's an interesting if not more existential direction to go with an animated sequel to the biggest animated film the box office has ever seen (over $1.2 billion worldwide), but while I fully expect Lee and Buck's sequel to have all the necessary trademarks of its predecessor including new songs from original songwriting and husband/wife duo Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez it seems it will be fascinating to find out just what else Frozen II has up its sleeve. Given Lee also assumed the head of Walt Disney Animation, after succeeding John Lasseter, last summer it will also be interesting to see what this new film tackles as its chief creative force undoubtedly had complete freedom to do whatever she wished with the story. 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 new cast members Sterling K. Brown and Evan Rachel Wood in undisclosed roles with the film is set to open on November 22nd, 2019.

X-MEN: DARK PHOENIX Review

After experiencing the full-on force of a solar flare in the opening action sequence of writer/director Simon Kinberg's X-Men: Dark Phoenix, Sophie Turner's Jean Grey describes the after effects as if feeling like "everything is turned up." One might think this is a subtle way of hinting at the mantra of the movie itself, but in reality Kinberg and Dark Phoenix have taken the opposite approach and scaled things way down in comparison to Apocalypse. And I don't mean down in terms of quality, necessarily, as-let's be honest-the X-Men films have been all over the map in terms of quality over the years, but more simply in terms of the scope. Plus, after the disappointment that was Apocalypse, there wasn't much further down one could go quality-wise. While there was hesitance in approaching Dark Phoenix with anything more than slight optimism (and even that felt generous) given the rumored re-shoots, the attempt to re-tell this notable comics saga, as well as the multiple scheduling changes there was still this glimmer of hope given this was Kinberg's opportunity to finally take the reins meaning there might be some type of newfound energy to the characters and, given where the previous film had left off, some newfound enthusiasm for the world that was being built. And in many ways, this is true of the film as it is apparent from the get-go that Kinberg is taking a new approach to this world and to these characters both aesthetically as much as he is dramatically. In terms of what this fresh approach brings to this X-Men universe is the fact that, for the first time in a long time, it feels as if there is a clarity to what is transpiring-both in terms of the visuals and the direction of the story. Needless to say, Bryan Singer's aesthetic had begun to rely more and more on CGI while his stories felt more based on ideas that were fun in the moment without considering the bigger picture (I'm looking at you, timeline). With Dark Phoenix, there is this lucidity that pulses through the film's veins as it strives to at least try different, more interesting things with the surplus of characters in its possession. As is usual, some get the short end of the stick while others who are not necessarily worthy of the focus receive too much screen time, but while there are some major qualms to be had with Dark Phoenix there are also some serious highs that deserve acknowledgment. As someone who didn't grow up on the comics, but was instead introduced through the animated series and subsequent live-action films, this unexpected swan song of an X-Men film delivers enough of the familiar to make one happy and, surprisingly, enough of a renewed approach that shines new light on oft repeated arcs to make one kind of wish this wasn't the last time we'd see this particular group of mutants on the big screen.

Tavern Talk: Video Review - GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS & ROCKETMAN

In a rather packed weekend for new releases the biggest of them all failed to hit expectations while two, more minor releases decided to rise above them. When speaking of the biggest of them all I'm of course referring to Godzilla: King of the Monsters, the massive follow-up to 2014's Godzilla and 2017's Kong: Skull Island. Warner Brothers' monster mash came in at the lower end of studio expectations finishing just short of $48 million while Rocketman and Ma topped expectations. Ma, specifically, launched with over $18 million domestically on a $5 million budget. Overall, the weekend saw the top twelve deliver nearly $170 million pushing the summer box office past $1.137 billion making the yearly box office just -8.5% behind last year as we enter the halfway point. With $47.7 million King of the Monsters fell short of the studio's $50-55 million expectations as it declined day-to-day after a $19.6 million Friday. This isn't great news as it is a far cry from the $93.2 million opening of the 2014 reboot and even fell well short of the $61 million opening for Skull Island in 2017. Worse, Skull Island had a much smaller Thursday night preview grosses ($3.7 million as compared to King of the Monsters $6.3 million) and still managed a larger opening day ($20.1 million) while holding better throughout the weekend. This doesn't bode well for WB's continued Monster-verse as King of the Monsters will face some steep competition in a new X-Men film and Secret Life of Pets sequel this weekend, a new Men in Black movie next weekend, and Toy Story 4 the week after that. It's a good thing director Adam Wingard's (The Guest, You're Next) Godzilla vs. Kong is already in post-production and slated for release next March or we might not have seen this quadrilogy conclude as originally intended. On the other end of things, while Aladdin held strong in second place with a $42.8 million second weekend and a domestic gross that now totals over $190 million, the R-rated Elton John biopic starring Taron Egerton finished in third with $25.7 million well ahead of the $18-20 million studio estimates. More promising than this strong start though, is the fact the film received strong reviews from critics as well as an "A-" CinemaScore from opening weekend audiences. Given the film will have little to no competition in the "movies for grown folks" category save for the wide release of Late Night next weekend, it seems Rocketman has no choice but to remain steady. Internationally, Rocketman grossed $19.2 million in its second weekend for an international cume of $31.2 million and a worldwide total of over $63 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!

First Trailer for AD ASTRA Starring Brad Pitt

It seems as if I first heard about James Gray's Ad Astra a little over a year ago when it was scheduled for release in May of this year, but the premiere showing at the Cannes film fest was canceled and the rumors were that the opening may be delayed until the fall depending on the Fox/Disney merger and how everything shook out with that. Well, it seems the fall it will be as 20th Century Fox (as now owned by Disney) has released the first trailer for Gray's follow-up to his critically acclaimed, but seemingly little seen The Lost City of Z (you can stream it now for free if you have an Amazon Prime account). The filmmaker has also had good luck with critics in his 2007 and 2008 releases of We Own the Night and Two Lovers, but neither of those lit the box office on fire either and I'm curious as to what it is that might keep the hordes away given Gray tends to attract some pretty big names to his movies. For instance, Pitt has been eager to work with the director for some time as he was originally scheduled to star in The Lost City of Z, but had to drop out due to scheduling conflicts. Gray has worked with both Mark Wahlberg and Joaquin Phoenix multiple times, but not even when he paired those two in that aforementioned 2007 crime thriller was he able to tap into a wider audience. I say all this with the hope that Ad Astra is the turning point for the filmmaker. Gray, who wrote the original screenplay with Ethan Ross (Fringe), has seemed to craft nothing short of a fascinating mystery/sci-fi film that isn't so much going to be leniant on the "fiction" part and instead be more grounded in its approach to discussing extraterrestrial life forms. In the film, Pitt plays an astronaut who travels to the outer edges of the solar system to find his father and unravel a mystery that threatens the survival of our planet; ultimately uncovering secrets that challenge the nature of human existence and our place in the universe. This sort of thing is right up my alley. I love when movies really go for it in the vein of something like 2001, The Tree of Life, or Interstellar, and this film seems as if it will fit really well into that line-up. It's also encouraging that films like Gravity, The Martian, and the aforementioned Interstellar have done well financially in a similar release landscape as this film will face. Ad Astra will also star Tommy Lee Jones, Ruth Negga, Liv Tyler, Donald Sutherland, John Ortiz, Kimberly Elise, and opens on September 20th, 2019.

Official Trailer for FORD V. FERRARI Starring Christian Bale & Matt Damon

While Walk the Line was unfortunately released under the shadow of Ray, I always found it to be the more arresting film and have since been a loyal fan of director James Mangold; cheering him on as he made his way through the super hero genre with the character of Wolverine and coming to re-define the genre in many ways with Hugh Jackman's farewell to the character in 2017's Logan. Mangold has of course had his missteps (we won't harp on Kate & Leopold), but I didn't seem to mind Knight & Day as much as most and thought the 3:10 to Yuma re-make was quite fascinating. In his latest, an adult drama in the purest sense of the phrase, Mangold reunites with Christian Bale to tell the story of two men, American car designer Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon) and driver Ken Miles (Bale), as they battle corporate interference, the laws of physics, and their own personal demons to build a revolutionary race car for Ford and challenge Ferrari at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1966. Written by Jez and John-Henry Butterworth (Fair Game, Edge of Tomorrow) along with Jason Keller (Escape Plan) with the screenplay itself being credited to Mangold, it's almost surprising a movie like this can still be made on the scope it has and with the grandeur this production seems to entail (this thing looks amazing) while not having been backed by Netflix or Amazon. Rather, 20th Century Fox is breaking out these big guns this awards season as this was originally scheduled to be released this summer, but was pushed back for a better chance at awards consideration. The film will no doubt be touted as Mangold's follow-up to his critically and commercially successful Logan that features two "movie star" names at the top of their games telling a fascinatingly wild story that will appeal to a variety of audiences alike. A film version of these events has been in the works for some time as the story goes that Shelby and Miles were dispatched by Henry Ford II and Lee Iacocca (Jon Bernthal) themselves to build an entirely new vehicle from scratch that could finally defeat Ferrari. This is all to say that while Bale and Damon look to be at the top of their game if the trailer is any indication the true scene-stealer will be Tracy Letts as Ford II as he gets to close out this teaser in pretty fantastic fashion. Ford v Ferrari also stars Caitriona Balfe, Josh Lucas, Ray McKinnon, Noah Jupe, and opens on November 15th.

ROCKETMAN Review

“I Guess That’s Why They Call it the Blues” is one of my favorite songs of all time. Like, I would rank it as being among one of the best song's ever written...that's how much I love it. My mother's side of the family being from England I can’t remember a time when I didn’t know who Elton John was. It’s not so much the lyrical content itself that moved me as a young man for I couldn’t have grasped what Bernie Taupin was expressing through his lyrics, but there was always something about the tone of the music and the clarity of the melody in an Elton John song that would inherently move myself and countless others, obviously. I don’t know what exactly was meant by, “And it won't be long before you and me run-to the place in our hearts where we hide,” but I know how it made me feel; I know that it made me stop and take more time to recognize what was happening in my life at that given moment and realize that no matter what stage of life I’m in that it won’t be that way for long and to cherish those moments as life isn’t measured by how long we have, but by what we do with the time we’re given. A little deep, right? To say that I was hoping for the same type of emotional reaction to director Dexter Fletcher’s Rocketman is accurate and while it would be largely impossible for a two-hour visual interpretation of Elton John’s life to measure up to such high hopes there was the optimism that Fletcher might be able to pull it off as the opening moments of the film suggested this wasn't your typical musical biopic. Sure, we begin with the Elton John of the early eighties entering rehab with it serving as a platform for John to reflect on the entirety of his life, but while the framing device may be familiar you've never quite seen it service the story as it does in Rocketman. Fletcher's film is a full-on fantasy in many regards meaning this isn't a movie about Elton John's life as it actually happened, but the story of Elton John's life as Elton John remembers it. This setting of expectations paired with the flashing through of John's childhood that culminates in "Saturday Night's Alright for Fighting" and a full-on, flat-out, undisputable musical number complete with dance interludes gives the impression that Fletcher mastered how not to just convey the events of his subject's life, but capture the essence of what it might have been like to live as Elton John. From this moment on though, Rocketman never gains the same momentum that it bubbles over with during "Saturday" and though it offers some technically inventive filmmaking and creative interpretations of several Elton John classics the film itself is never as emotionally moving or rousing as the songs themselves. 

First Look at Disney & Pixar's ONWARD

Disney and Pixar’s Onward will mark the studio’s first non-sequel release in nearly three years and is one of the reasons this may have just shot to the top of my most anticipated list for 2020. I know, I know-I won’t get too excited given the spring release date immediately marking this as something of a second-tier release, but Zootopia had the same vibe and that film turned out, well...fantastic. Directed and written by Monsters University’s Dan Scanlon, the film is set in a suburban fantasy world where two teenage elf brothers embark on a quest to discover if there is still magic in their world. And “their world” is the emphasis here as the this first look teaser, more than anything else, sets up what could be an immersive new environment as Scanlon has combined the tropes of the fantasy genre with that of the pure, yet completely cloaked truth that sits within suburbia. The creativity we tend to take for granted now or at least have come to expect nothing less than with Pixar is on full display here whether it be in the mer-people lounging in their Dollar General pools, garden gnomes actually doing some gardening, or those beautiful, mythical creatures we refer to as unicorns scavenging through trash the acclimation of this fantasy world into something more resembling our own is pretty fantastic. It's also inspiring that Scanlon seems to essentially have been given full creative control from top to bottom on this as he is the sole screenwriter credited as well. This may not seem like a big deal, but animated films and especially ones with Disney involved often have a team of writers weaving together the narrative as the film enters different stages of production. While Disney and Pixar know how to make an animated film that works, there is no disputing that, it will be somewhat refreshing to have an experience that seemingly comes from a single, hopefully clear perspective. Scanlon, who has said this story was inspired by his relationship with his own brother, has enlisted the help of current MCU stars Tom Holland (Spider-Man) and Chris Pratt (Star Lord in the Guardians of the Galaxy franchise) to voice the two brothers, while Julia Louis-Dreyfus will provide the voice of their mother. Octavia Spencer also stars with Onward set to open on March 6th, 2020.

GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS Review

The “pictures” have always been about spectacle and spectacle, especially in this day and age, is what we have come to expect from our picture shows. Spectacle isn’t a dirty word and is often the reason to pay more to be immersed in the movies, but spectacle is best served with a meaningful narrative. There are and can be a lot of variations on the word "meaningful" mind you, but when it comes to movies about giant monsters it doesn't seem to be asking for much for said narrative to at least try and find meaning in the smallest of details, character moments, or even just in the knowing indications of the filmmaking that own up to the fact that the movie itself knows what the audience is really in attendance for; if the focus is going to be the titans at least have a little frivolous fun with the extraneous elements. What is maybe most disappointing about Godzilla: King of the Monsters though, is the fact director Michael Dougherty (Trick 'r Treat, Krampus) touches on the potential meaning through each of those aforementioned examples in his screenplay yet never takes them far enough to where any of them connect. Instead, Dougherty’s sequel to Gareth Edwards' 2014 Godzilla doubles down on the spectacle so as to please the masses who are coming to this movie looking for more of what they didn't get in that previous film. Again, there’s nothing wrong with spectacle and if that's all you’re hoping this new Godzilla flick delivers then you’re in luck, but if you need the human element to help enhance your investment in the monsters then you'll likely be somewhat disappointed-especially considering the grade-A cast in place here. It’s not even that the characters aren’t likable or endearing, but rather that they don’t tend to be consistent in their intentions and/or as intelligent as they’re obviously supposed to be. Dougherty is a guy who knows how to deliver extravagance with a sly side of brazen as has been exemplified in his past works and while there was hope that this unique flavor might be able to transcend the big studio blockbuster system it seems Dougherty's special brand of schlock has been watered down to fit this pre-ordained plan of plain characters doing plot-convenient actions so as to bring these monsters together for a smackdown rather than being allowed the space and freedom to find meaning in any of these elements surrounding Godzilla that might have assisted in his presence feeling both more natural and impactful. That "spectacle" is admittedly grand in moments, but it can't help but feel empty; devoid of any real feeling and therefore not eliciting much of one either.

Teaser Trailer for RAMBO: LAST BLOOD Starring Sylvester Stallone

In all honesty, I’ve never seen any of the Rambo films and have even more honestly, have never had any interest in doing so. Rocky was always more my dude and my speed given those films are what came along first as suggested by my more sports-inclined household growing up. And so, while I have literally zero point of reference with Sylvester Stallone’s other noteworthy franchise that began in 1982 with First Blood I imagine I’ll be doing some catching up this summer given the subtitle of this new film indicates some serious finality to the series. That said, what’s more interesting to me is the fact that at seventy-two Stallone is more or less getting all of his affairs in order with each of his major characters as just last year he said a likely final farewell to Rocky Balboa in Creed II and in this seven year-later sequel to 2008’s Rambo it seems he will be doing the same with this character. How does it feel to so openly acknowledge your mortality to the point you publicly label a film you’re the star of to be the final one and not just that, but the final one in a series that began when you were thirty-six? I can only imagine Stallone feels as if he just shot First Blood not too long ago and so to be at a place in this plain of existence where it’s actually been as many years since that first film as he was years old when he made it has to be both a real head trip and in many ways-as devastating as it is pride inducing. And while I haven’t seen any of the previous Rambo movies it’s not hard to see that this first trailer for this last go-around promises something of a different approach-at least geographically. I always remember Rambo seeming to take place in jungles or environments that were heavily green in their aesthetic where the titular character was probably not indigenous to, but with Last Blood it seems as if Stallone (who co-wrote the screenplay) has appropriately carried the character into retirement and possibly even into the western genre? We shall see how Stallone and director Adrian Grunberg (2012's Get the Gringo) desire soon enough I guess, but until then I have some catching up to do. Rambo: Last Blood also stars Paz Vega, Sergio Peris-Mencheta, Adrianna Barraza, Yvette Monreal, Genie Kim aka Yenah Han, Joaquin Cosio, Oscar Jaenada, and opens on September 20th, 2019.

Tavern Talk: Video Review - ALADDIN

Aladdin always seemed as if it was going to go one of two ways with little to no gray area in between. The live-action re-make of one of Disney's most popular IP's would either crash and burn after the barrage of bad press surrounding its marketing campaign or the masses who rely on Disney to produce quality family entertainment would flock to see their next venture that also happened to feature worldwide superstar Will Smith. Given the phrasing of that previous sentence I'm guessing you might already know how this turned out for the mouse house...yes, pretty damn well would be the right answer. Needless to say, Aladdin topped the holiday weekend with an impressive $85 million for the three-day and over $116 million for the four-day period. It is important to note that Aladdin also received an "A" CinemaScore with an audience that was 54% female and 54% over the age of twenty-five which, in other words, could mean serious legs. Also of note is the fact this four-day total pushed the Guy Ritchie film into the top five Memorial Day releases of all time. Furthermore, Aladdin debuted in every major market except for Japan and delivered an estimated $121 million for a current worldwide cume of $268 million. In second, John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum scored an estimated $25 million for the three-day weekend, pushing the film over $100 million after just ten days in release. With $186 million worldwide, Parabellum is already the highest grossing film in the franchise. The box office story of the summer that is Avengers: Endgame continued its more than solid run landing in third place in its fifth weekend with $22 million for the four-day weekend, passing $800 million domestic and giving it a $2.677 billion worldwide total putting it around $111 million or so behind Avatar on the all-time worldwide chart. Detective Pikachu delivered a $17.5 million four-day weekend total which was good enough to garner it fourth place in in its third weekend with domestic gross that now tops $120 million and a worldwide gross just shy of $360 million. Rounding out the top five was the other major newcomer, Brightburn, netting around $9 million over the holiday weekend which isn't bad considering its $6 million production budget, but this one seemed to really have the potential to break-out and just...didn't. The other new wide release of the week was Olivia Wilde's directorial debut in Booksmart, but the Annapurna distributed indie wasn't able to crack the top five coming in at number six with $6.9 million over the three-day weekend. As the best-reviewed new release though, I know a lot of people are hoping Booksmart will gain traction through strong word of mouth (I'm excited to finally see it tonight!). 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 THE GOLDFINCH Starring Nicole Kidman & Ansel Elgort

Brooklyn was one of my favorite and, personally speaking, one of the best films of 2015. The Goldfinch is director John Crowley's follow-up to that film and needless to say, I'm excited. Based on the 2013 novel of the same name by Donna Tartt which won the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, among other honors. It should also be noted that this is the first film famed cinematographer Roger Deakins chose to shoot after his Oscar-winning work on Blade Runner 2049. While I haven't read the book I am extremely compelled to do so before the film premieres later this fall as it would seem the experience of having a greater depth of knowledge to the events set to take place would only enhance what will surely already be something of a deeply  moving experience. These indications are taken from this trailer alone as the structural beauty of it through which the narrative is hinted at and some of the shots that depict said narrative emotions seem completely in tune with one another to the point I can't imagine the complete experience of this film not turning out to be as effective as Crowley means it to be. Ansel Elgort (The Fault in Our Stars, Baby Driver) plays Theodore Decker, a young man who was even younger when he lost his mother in a bombing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. While knowing nothing about the story The Goldfinch tells prior to seeing this trailer it seems much of the film will deal in Decker coming to terms with his loss. "When I lost her, I lost sight of any landmark that might have led me some place happier." This line of dialogue alone exemplifies the level at which we're operating here (the novel was adapted by Peter Straughan who doesn't have the greatest list of credits, but we'll see) as it is such a devastatingly sad, yet beautifully written line. Decker is taken in by a wealthy Upper East Side family, but soon finds himself descending into a world of crime. While this detail is beyond what is even hinted at in the trailer I'm curious to see if both the narrative itself as well as the finished film can live up to both the promise of this teaser as well as the beautiful imagery Deakins has captured here. The Goldfinch also stars Nicole Kidman, Oakes Fegley, Aneurin Barnard, Finn Wolfhard, Sarah Paulson, Luke Wilson, Jeffrey Wright, Ashleigh Cummings, Willa Fitzgerald, Aimee Laurence, Denis O’Hare, Boyd Gaines, and opens on September 13th, 2019.

On DVD & Blu-Ray: May 28, 2019

Official Trailer for ANNABELLE COMES HOME

While I actually own 2017's Annabelle Creation and 2014's Annabelle can likely be found in a bargain bin somewhere around town I have failed to see either of these Conjuring spin-off movies yet have managed to see the other The Conjuring Universe films like The Nun (terrible) and The Curse of La Llorona (super average). With this summer's Annabelle Comes Home though, it seems Warner Bros. and producer/director James Wan are making it abundantly clear that these spin-offs are here to stay. I mean, The Nun made $365 million worldwide on a production budget of $22 million and La Llorona has already made over $120 million worldwide on a budget of only $9 million, so why would they? What separates this latest film from the rest of these spin-offs though, and even the previous Annabelle stand-alone films, is the fact Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson return as Ed and Lorraine Warren. The two are now bringing the titular doll home to lock it away forever as I'm assuming those Annabelle films I haven't seen feature some pretty terrible stuff that the Warren's don't want happening again. If this is the case though, you'd think they would have rented a storage unit or something to keep all the creepy shit in as the premise of Annabelle Comes Home revolves around the Warren's locking the doll in their artifacts room in their home, enlisting a priest's holy blessing, and then leaving their ten-year-old daughter, Judy (McKenna Grace), home alone with her babysitters who are all too curious and unleash the doll who inevitably sets her sights on a new target--Judy. As for the trailer itself, this looks like pretty standard fare as far as the Conjuring films are concerned, but I'll give the film the benefit of the doubt given it's the one where the Conjuring and Annabelle film finally converge undoubtedly allowing this universe to move forward as well as being the directorial debut of Conjuring-verse veteran Gary Dauberman (who, funnily enough, had nothing to do with either of The Conjuring films, but is one of the credited screenwriters on both chapter's of the new IT, so I'll give him that). Dauberman also wrote both Annabelle and Creation so maybe, as much as we like to believe story is the most important thing, when it comes to the horror genre it is more about the way in which these ghost stories are constructed and conveyed that matters a little more. That said, I'm anxious to see what Dauberman will do now that he has full control. Annabelle Comes Home also stars Madison Iseman, Emily Brobst, Katie Sarife, Steve Coulter, and opens on June 26th, 2019.

ALADDIN Review

I know it's beyond cliché to begin ones film review with a quote from the film you're reviewing, but the 2019 live action re-make of Aladdin was also the last place I expected to find a quote that was compelling enough to open said review with. While, at this point, I guess I won't technically be "opening" the review with the quote...it's close enough. "The more you gain by pretending, the less you actually have," is the quote in question by the way. As this is said by Will Smith's much discussed and often much maligned interpretation of the Genie it immediately became more evident that not only was this new iteration of Aladdin not completely tone deaf to the world in which it exists, but that it also works as something of a meta-commentary on how these live-action versions of these classic animated stories work or not depending on how much of a creative endeavor they are in and of themselves. The Jungle Book, for example, shouldn't have worked because the story was as thin as a wafer and the original was more or less a series of musical numbers, but by default of digging more into Kipling's narrative and creating this immersive environment with photo-realistic characters the film came to feel like something of an endeavor worth rewarding even if the final product wasn't as exceptional as the individual parts would lead one to believe. This is also why Beauty and the Beast didn't work and why Cinderella lands somewhere in the middle of the pack. Alice in Wonderland is the exception given that one had much the same level of investment as Jungle Book, but for one reason or another didn't work. Guy Ritchie's Aladdin only plays pretend for long enough that it warms the audience up to the idea of this new version before beginning to carve its own path and therefore making it its own thing-peaking its head out from under the legacy of the original. In other words, it doesn't gain its credibility by being a carbon copy and therefore amounting to nothing more than a flash in the pan money-maker, but there's surprisingly enough here to give 2019's Aladdin strong enough legs to stand on its own. It actually has a fair amount to offer. I'm as surprised as the next person about this revelation given the trailers and TV spots were more indicative of a train wreck than a triumph and while Ritchie's Aladdin isn't necessarily a triumph in the boldest sense of the word it is a triumph in the sense that it made this 90's-raised thirty-something dude who viewed the original animated film as something of the holy grail of animated films appreciate this new movie not just as an entertaining distraction that honored the original, but as an entertaining endeavor that both honors the original and finds new purpose in its own existence.         

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.