John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum Review

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

Avengers: Endgame Review

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

POKÉMON Detective Pikachu Review

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

The Intruder Review

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

Long Shot Review

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

DUMBO Review

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

Tavern Talk: Video Review - US

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

US Review

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

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

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

Tavern Talk: Video Review - CAPTIVE STATE

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

On DVD & Blu-Ray: March 19, 2019

Official Trailer for Disney & Pixar's TOY STORY 4

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

CAPTIVE STATE Review

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

Official Trailer for AVENGERS: ENDGAME

Since the credits rolled on Infinity War nearly a year ago now and with Captain Marvel's opening weekend now behind us, the countdown to Endgame has officially begun and Marvel just ratcheted up all the feels with this official trailer release. Still holding back a considerable amount and being very picky with what new footage we are allowed to see before any of the general public actually sees the complete film, this official trailer plays more as an homage of sorts to the core original Avengers than it does a glimpse into the future of the MCU. This is a nice touch given this truly does feel like a culmination of ten-plus years of movie-watching while the tag on the trailer includes Brie Larson's Carol Danvers in an effort to move into the future as well. It's kind of surreal in a way that this was always going to be unavoidable, but somehow seemed as if it might be so big so as to forever elude us. Here we are though, less than two months out, we barely know anything about the plot of the film except for the countless theories that are floating around the internet, with this latest trailer not mentioning Thanos at all, and I can't help but know we'll all be all the better for it come Thursday, April 25th when the collective MCU fans sit down to experience the true end of an era. Avengers: Endgame also stars Scarlett Johansson, Robert Downey Jr., Elizabeth Olsen, Chris Pratt, Chris Evans, Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Rudd, Chris Hemsworth, Chadwick Boseman, Anthony Mackie, Brie Larson, Karen Gillan, Jeremy Renner, Evangeline Lily, Vin Diesel, Michelle Pfeiffer, Sebastian Stan, Samuel L. Jackson, Bradley Cooper, Pom Klementieff, Dae Bautista, Josh Brolin, Paul Bettany, Mark Ruffalo, Benedict Wong, Don Cheadle, and opens April 26th, 2019.

Official Trailer for Disney's ALADDIN Starring Will Smith

It's been a tough road for Disney's live-action adaptation of their 1992 animated classic, Aladdin, thus far as it seems with each new look there is a fair amount of online backlash-most of which seems to be around Will Smith's incarnation of the Genie. Of course, if you're familiar with that seminal nineties movie (and if you're not, you need to get familiar) Genie was always going to be the biggest hurdle considering Robin Williams' groundbreaking iteration. While Williams' performance will obviously loom large it would seem naive to think Smith didn't think through this whole scenario before agreeing to take the role in the first place. Smith had to know he was in something of a no-win situation given the reverence for Williams' interpretation and the fact he would have to come-up with something both radically different and pretty special to even be allowed in the same conversation. I hope this is the case and given this first, true look and representation at what the full film might actually be like I'm more optimistic than I've yet to be in regards to this project at all, but I'm definitely more optimistic than I was a month ago. Alice in Wonderland, Cinderella, Dumbo, those are all one thing, but when you have a property that fuels nostalgia for the entire generation who is now the base demographic with expendable income there has to be a plan in place. With this official trailer we are allowed glimpses at more of the iconic moments from the animated original as well as seeing how the movie might mix things up so as to not be a complete carbon copy. The scale is present here, there is more personality to each of the characters, and there is the expected tone in the editing given this has director Guy Ritchie behind it (Snatch, Sherlock Holmes). That said, some of it does still look very staged and fake as opposed to the natural tangibility one would think is the point in creating these live-action re-makes. On the plus side though, along with some of the classic music that we hear references to in the trailer this live-action version will also feature new songs by Alan Menken and La La Land songwriters Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (Menken wrote with Howard Ashman and Tim Rice for the 1992 version). Aladdin will also star Marwan Kenzari, Navid Negahban, Nasim Pedrad, Billy Magnussen, Numan Acar, Mena Massoud, Naomi Scott, and opens on May 24th, 2019.

On DVD & Blu-Ray: March 12, 2019

CAPTAIN MARVEL Review

Captain Marvel, notable for being the first female-led Marvel Cinematic Universe film after twenty-one movies, is a fun and sometimes unique take on the super hero origin story that unfortunately never finds its groove enough to the point it's somewhat fearful the character won’t be able to get her groove back when it comes time for Avengers: Endgame. For all intents and purposes, Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck’s (Half Nelson, Mississippi Grind) MCU debut is your boilerplate Marvel origins story which, by virtue of where we’re now at in this universe, makes it feel small in comparison to even the most recent additions. Falling somewhere in between the muddled middle of Doctor Strange and Black Panther, Brie Larson's Carol Danvers isn't a riff on an origin story we've seen before, but neither does it have the added elements of magic as in Strange or the advantage of introducing us to a new world a la Panther. In a Phase Three world, a mostly Earth-set origin story was going to have to give us a little something more than also doubling as the origin story for Samuel L. Jackson's Nick Fury or-at least-it was going to need to find a really cool, really fresh way to convey that story. For example, in the opening twenty or so minutes of Captain Marvel, we are treated to what is essentially a Star Wars or Star Trek-like space opera with the full-on introductions of the Kree and Skrull races we've heard whisperings of for years as well as to the Kree home planet and their military force for which Danvers has been trained by her mentor, Yon-Rogg (Jude Law). Such introductions lend the film something of a Guardians of the Galaxy-vibe, but the tone is different enough that this could simply be yet another facet of the MCU we haven't yet seen. Were Boden and Fleck, who also wrote the script alongside Geneva Robertson-Dworet (2018's Tomb Raider), to harness the momentum of this initial set-up and action sequence, executing it in the fashion of a genre flick of this type that was released in the decade their film is set, the film might have proven to be a more unique and odd side venture for the MCU, but unlike the flavor Taika Waititi brought to Thor: Ragnarok or the subversiveness James Gunn infused his GotG films with, Captain Marvel ends up being a perfectly serviceable, but highly average entry in the ever-expanding MCU; a movie that feels more like the pilot of a nineties spin-off series that never hits the same strides as the series that inspired it rather than the explosive debut it could seemingly have so easily been.

First Trailer for Ari Aster's MIDSOMMAR

In Sweden, "Midsummer" is the period of time centered upon the summer solstice, taking place on a day between June 19 and June 25 as well as the preceding evening. Midsummer is such an important festivity in fact, that there have actually been discussions about making Midsummer's Eve into the National Day of Sweden. This is all well and good, but what does the director of last summer's breakout horror flick, Hereditary, know about this festival that we don't? Or, moreover, what might he know that would lead him to base his second feature for A24 around it? As it turns out, the holiday has its roots in a pre-Christian solstice festival. Rather than trying to stamp out such pagan festivals, the early Catholic Church would co-opt them by associating them with Christian celebrations. For example, the winter solstice took place on December 25th and thus establishing this as the date when Jesus was born allowed the Church to be able to absorb the pagan midwinter festival of Yule into the Christian celebration of Christmas. Further, Biblical sources suggest that St. John the Baptist was born six months before Jesus, meaning that his birthday could then be conveniently associated with the pagan summer festivals. Alas, "Midsummer" as it is presently celebrated was more or less born with the modern festival featuring the usual trademarks of food, entertainment, and fellowship, but with plenty of unique ticks such as the inclusion of magic and anything to do with nature being thought to have a special power as well as the large outdoor bonfires and the tradition of decorating a "maypole" with greenery and flowers. Writer/director Ari Aster will undoubtedly go after the pagan origins of this festival in order to produce some of the more "unconventional" aspects of this festival, but it will be interesting to see just how much religion and the origins of this real-life celebration play into Aster's narrative. For now, this first trailer offers all the mood and tone necessary to know that, at the very least, Aster's beautiful aesthetic was no fluke; this trailer is gorgeous. Midsommar stars Florence Pugh, Jack Reynor, William Jackson Harper, Vilhelm Blomgran, Archie Madekwe, Ellora Torchia, Will Poulter, and is currently set to open on August 3rd, 2019.

On DVD & Blu-Ray: March 5, 2019