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.

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.

Tavern Talk: Video Review - POKÉMON DETECTIVE PIKACHU

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

Teaser Trailer for MALEFICENT: MISTRESS OF EVIL Starring Angelina Jolie

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

POKÉMON DETECTIVE PIKACHU Review

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

Teaser Trailer for IT: CHAPTER TWO

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

Tavern Talk: Video Review - LONG SHOT

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

Official Trailer for SPIDER-MAN: FAR FROM HOME

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

LONG SHOT Review

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