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.

MOVIES I WANNA SEE MOST: FALL 2019

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

Tavern Talk: Video Review - READY OR NOT

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

Final Trailer for JOKER Starring Joaquin Phoenix

Joaquin Phoenix enters the super hero genre with what is probably the only role he could ever have entered the genre with: the Joker. While Phoenix was a ripe thirty-four in 2008 and could have more than capably played this same role in Chistopher Nolan's groundbreaking The Dark Knight it is hard to argue anything less than kismet that Heath Ledger took that role and now eleven years later Phoenix is working with a filmmaker more his speed in a film solely dedicated to the character. Despite his films typically receiving more negative press than unanimous praise, I've been a fan of director Todd Phillips since he knocked me out with a double dose of Frat Pack greatness in 2003 and 2004 with Old School and Starsky & Hutch before going on to become better known for The Hangover trilogy. While that trilogy may have become more and more mediocre over the course of three films in terms of story, they vastly improved Phillips' cinematic eye while the filmmaker's subversive take on the material at least led to interesting outlets. And while the character of the Joker arguably will suffer more than he might prosper from an origin story, with a screenplay by Phillips and Scott Silver (The Fighter) along with a cast that features the likes of not only Phoenix, but Robert De Niro, Brian Tyree Henry, Zazie Beetz, Shea Whigham, Frances Conroy, Brett Cullen, Marc Maron, Bill Camp and Bryan Callen it's hard to argue one isn't at least intrigued by the promise if not excited by the idea. Furthermore, can we emphasize the cinematic eye of Phillips and how it has only continued to grow with what we see in this final trailer? The seventies-set New York crime drama feels visceral in a way that transcends the legacy of the character making it feel that Joker, like The Dark Knight, will simply be a strong genre film that just so happens to also feature characters inspired by comic books. This is easily my most anticipated film of the year and it will be hard to forgive all those seeing it early on the film festival circuit as us general movie-goers have to wait another month until Joker hits theaters on October 4th, 2019.

READY OR NOT Review

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

Tavern Talk: Video Review - GOOD BOYS

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

GOOD BOYS Review

If twelve year-old's could actually see the new Seth Rogen-produced comedy, Good Boys, which chronicles-in too honest a nature for their own sensibilities apparently-the misadventures of this transformative stage from elementary to middle school then there would undoubtedly be a thousand more "bean bag boy" trios popping up across the nation tomorrow and...in all honesty...that wouldn't be such a bad thing. For all of the promotional focus around this movie being on the gimmick of it starring actors too young to see their own movie because of the words and actions they say and do the truth of the matter is that despite this seemingly backwards rule (for the record, I don't think anyone under fifteen should probably watch this if for no other reason than to preserve as much innocence as possible for as long as possible) the heart of Good Boys lies in the fact that a sweetness is ultimately born from the vulgarity it would seem reliant upon. Our three co-leads, best friends and founding members of the aforementioned "bean bag boys" are so oblivious to the true meanings of some of the things they say, so unsuspecting in the ramifications of some of their actions and-most importantly-have the best of intentions in the quest the movie ultimately sends them on that the crudeness that comes to serve as the details in said quest only make to further emphasize the honesty of how kids act among themselves when their parents and elders aren't around. This point of these children being tawdry is just that-to garner cheap laughs from their peers, not because they actually possess such personalities; they're unrefined, sure, but they're not crass. The minutiae of such distinctions allows for the kids themselves to feel blameless in their thoughts and in their words, but more products of their environments in the truest sense of the phrase. This is where Good Boys becomes something wholly different in its approach though, for as much as the movie is, on a surface-level, about garnering laughs from twelve year-old's saying the "F" word writer/director Gene Stupnitsky and co-writer/producer Lee Eisenberg seem intent on emphasizing the fact the title of their film is more earnest than it is satirical; meaning the bean bag boys-despite all the trouble they get into-are in fact, fundamentally, honest-to-God good boys.     

Tavern Talk: Video Review - SCARY STORIES TO TELL IN THE DARK

With five new wide releases opening going into the weekend the only foregone conclusion was that last week's number one, Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw, would remain at the top spot. The fight for second would largely be between Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark and Dora and the Lost City of Gold while the likes of The Art of Racing in the Rain, The Kitchen and Brian Banks could seemingly do anything or nothing. Fortunately for Tavern Talk, the new release we chose to review this week did indeed prove to be the biggest as CBS Films, eOne and Lionsgate's Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark adaptation raked in almost $21 million in its first weekend on a budget of $25 million. While the film did receive a rather discouraging "C" CinemaScore from opening day audiences (we liked it a little more than that), the PG-13 film also played to crowds where 54% of the overall audience was older than twenty-five. While the film had the unique challenge of appealing to the generations that grew up with it while still maintaining the spirit of the source material and therefore appealing to current tweens and teens rather than only those who loved it as children who are now adults it seemed to use this appeal and potential appeal largely to its advantage. It's worth noting the Guillermo del Toro-produced and André Øvredal-directed feature will also be the last horror flick to open for the next month or so before the behemoth that will be It: Chapter Two arrives. 2015's Goosebumps ended its run with $58 million from a $23 million opening and given Scary Stories has been marketed as being a "first horror movie" for kids who are old enough as well as the room to grow the idea of this thing reaching $60 million or so isn't completely out of the question. Dora the Explorer's live-action adaptation debuted to $17 million which was enough for a third place finish while receiving an "A" CinemaScore, The Art of Racing in the Rain finished just outside the top five and on the lower end of studio expectations with an estimated $8.1 million while Warner Bros. and New Line's The Kitchen fell below even the lowest of expectations with a $5.5 million debut. Lastly, Bleecker Street's release of Brian Banks finished just outside the top ten with $2.1 million though I can attest to this one being worth your time as even if the film itself is made in a rather generic fashion the story it's telling is truly extraordinary. 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 Greta Gerwig’s LITTLE WOMEN

Sony Pictures has released the first look at writer/director Greta Gerwig’s follow-up to her Oscar-nominated debut, Lady Bird. For her second feature, Gerwig chose to adapt Louisa May Alcott’s classic 1868 novel, Little Women, that follows four sisters who come of age in America in the aftermath of the Civil War. While I have fond memories of the 1994 Gillian Armstrong-directed adaptation starring Susan Sarandon, Winona Ryder, Kirsten Dunst, Claire Danes and Christian Bale (which I remember considering funny even at that time as period pieces weren't exactly my thing as an eight to nine year-old boy) as it was one of those VHS tapes on repeat at my Nanny's (my mom's mom) house that I never thought twice about the origins of. Originally published in two volumes in 1868 and 1869, the book is known for being a mostly autobiographical novel in which Alcott chronicled the March sisters including Meg (Emma Watson), Jo (Saoirse Ronan), Amy (Florence Pugh of Midsommar) and Beth (Eliza Scanlen of Sharp Objects) as they grow up, find love and find their place in the world. Timothee Chalamet takes on the role of Theodore Laurence, the grandson of the March's neighbor and the young man who is ultimately after the heart of the strong and willful Jo. All of that said, I don't remember much of the specifics or details of said story and therefore am unsure of what exactly attracted Gerwig to this project as her follow-up outside of the fact it's a classic novel and something of a familiar brand that might help it garner more traction outside of this simply being Gerwig's second film as a director. Given I remember that previous version being more than appealing though, I'm anxious to see what Gerwig has done with the source material to make it her own. If there's anything that stands out about the trailer it is how impeccable the period detail seems to be while simultaneously feeling as fresh as anything Gerwig might have done otherwise. Though set in the 19th century the conflicts and interactions all feel very much alive and the actors just as present in these emotions as they would be were they in a high school setting. Rather than feeling like the stuffy, unrelatable period piece it very well could have Gerwig seems to have crafted something much more accessible. The themes and ideas being relayed are unsurprising yet still important, but I'm really loving the way Gerwig and her cinematographer, Yorick Le Saux, seem to have balanced the look of the film with these bright pops of vibrant color and the rich textures of the dark shadows as if to fully embrace the little women of the title coming into their own and carving out their own respective places in society. Little Women also stars Meryl Streep, Laura Dern, Bob Odenkirk, Chris Cooper and opens on Christmas Day.

On DVD & Blu-Ray: August 13, 2019

SCARY STORIES TO TELL IN THE DARK Review

Set among the warm fall colors in 1968, director André Øvredal's (Trollhunter) adaptation of Alvin Schwartz's collection of folklore that are forever ingrained in the minds of the children who read them thanks to Stephen Gammell’s red and blue-tinged illustrations is a genuinely frightening slice of nostalgia horror aimed at the same audience as Schwartz's three collections of short stories with the visual prowess to line up alongside the creepiest of horror shows. It's a difficult line to skirt and an even greater feat to accomplish, but what allows this compilation of the individual stories to feel like a cohesive whole is both the fact that no individual creature or arc is meant to outshine the other and that Øvredal along with screenwriters Dan and Kevin Hageman with a credit also going to producer Guillermo del Toro is the fact they utilize said creatures and arcs within the architecture of your standard "killer/slasher" structure to enhance the character arcs of our heroes. The caveat of this adaptation is that they've made each of these "scary stories" a symptom of the same source-a book written by the strange, misbegotten daughter of the family who founded this rural farming community in which the film takes place: Sarah Bellows. This plot device of a literal book of scary stories allows for the main characters to have the knowledge and understanding of what they're dealing with, for the structure to ratchet up the tension by placing a ticking clock via the head count and finally, for the Hageman's and del Toro to write these protagonist's in a way so that the stories they end up in from Bellows' book are of a metaphorical nature thus lending the individuals and the stories themselves a certain amount of depth. This isn't to say Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark transcends the horror genre and will go on to serve as a defining piece of work, but more that this film in particular had the difficult task of relaying a work written for children that was meant to make those children feel like adults into a movie that looked as if it were made for adults, but successfully functioned as a movie for both audiences. And sure, different genres do this all the time, but there has always been a clear distinction between PG-13 horror and R-rated horror and while some of this achievement may be relegated to the fact this was granted a PG-13 rating and we therefore accept this content is acceptable for younger teen audiences, to see past the semantics is to see that Scary Stories doesn't simply achieve the objective of being creepy, but it ever so quietly works its way into that rarified air of being a horror film that feels as familiar and comforting as the fall leaves its set within while still being unnerving; hell, it may not break any barriers, but it does feel like a breath of fresh air.

Tavern Talk: Video Review - FAST & FURIOUS PRESENTS: HOBBS & SHAW

While the big story with Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw over the weekend was that it debuted on the lower end of what the franchise typically pulls in a $180 million worldwide opening is nothing to scoff at. Debuting in 4,253 theaters (the second widest release in the Fast & Furious franchise) the action epic budgeted at $200 million pulled in $60 million, which was in line with Universal's pre-weekend expectations, but I will admit to being surprised this number was closer to a $50 million opening and not a $100 million opening. On the plus side, the film did receive an "A-" CinemaScore from opening day audiences and is currently sitting pretty at 90% via the audience score on RottenTomatoes (which apparently counts for a lot these days). These favorable reactions can only bode well for the legs on this thing given it's the last big "event" movie of the summer and while this weekend and next will feature a combined ten new wide releases that will undoubtedly bring down that large theater count, none of these save for (maybe?) the 47 Meters Down sequel will draw heavily from the audience Hobbs & Shaw is targeting. Internationally, the film launched in sixty-three overseas markets as well with an estimated $120 million, totaling that aforementioned $180 million global debut. This performance marked the fifth largest global opening ever for the studio with the film already having garnered another $5.871 million on Monday and $8.52 million on Tuesday giving the spin-off a $74.431 million five-day domestic cume. With the strong word of mouth and fairly even split in male to female audience members, I wouldn't be surprised if the film landed only a 50-60% drop this upcoming weekend easily pushing it over $100 million domestic and getting close to if not hitting that $350 million global mark; not bad for only ten days of release even if it didn't necessarily turn in core franchise numbers. Elsewhere in box office news, this past weekend once again improved over the same weekend last year as the likes of The Lion King, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood and the platform release of A24's The Farewell each continue to play strongly. 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!

FAST & FURIOUS PRESENTS: HOBBS & SHAW Review

Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw is a movie where, in the breadth of a single scene, we are witness to a character stating that, "humanity's hate for itself is greater than its self-preservation" alongside another piece of dialogue that goes something like, "genocide, smenocide." This is to say that Hobbs & Shaw very much knows what it wants to be with the question being if by the end of its mammoth two hour and seventeen minute runtime it actually has become what it wanted to be. One might interpret these two opposing lines of dialogue (spoken by the same character, I might add) for a film that wants to have its cake and eat it too by being both a serious action film that in fact takes itself seriously while injecting consistent moments of humor with the obvious outcome being that the latter then also consistently undermines the former, but what sets Hobbs & Shaw apart from its Fast & Furious brethren is that, from the get-go, it's apparent this thing doesn't take itself serious at all-in any regard-and so, when a character does begin spouting philosophical verbiage as Idris Elba's Brixton Lore does from time to time he does it with his tongue planted firmly in his cheek. It only seems natural this would be the case in a movie where both Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson and Jason Statham play what are more or less heightened versions of their own public personas whilst The Rock takes down a helicopter with his bare hands and Statham shows off his Wing Chun kung fu, karate and kickboxing skills to the extent that if he and director David Leitch (John Wick, Atomic Blonde, Deadpool 2) don't team-up for a martial arts-heavy film series to jump-start the next phase of Statham's career I will be sorely disappointed. As the ninth film in the series, but the first spin-off it only feels like the natural evolution for Hobbs & Shaw to be as outlandish and self-aware as it is and in following through on these instincts in every situation and not attempting to get too caught-up in plot, basing anything in anything resembling reality, or details such as logic and physics Leitch and his crew end up delivering exactly what audiences are looking for from this type of summer blockbuster. Keeping a keen eye on character and an even tone with the humor and its balance with the legit action Hobbs & Shaw maintains the emphasis on character being most important as that's what brought us here in the first place while the delivery of tight fight choreography and colossal action set pieces is what convinces us that not only should we continue to care about and invest in these characters, but that the creative forces behind the scenes care about them too...and that's ultimately what allows Hobbs & Shaw to succeed at becoming exactly what it wanted to be.