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.

KNIVES OUT Review

"The exception that proves the rule."

The movies are nothing alike in terms of what they're about, how they're directed, tone, nothing. There's nothing similar about these movies at all really except for that, from the moment they begin, there is a sense of supreme assuredness in where they're going and how they're meant to get there. This feeling arises at the beginning of a fair amount of movies because there are so many that begin with such promise yet so many of them tend to lose themselves along the way or lose momentum or more often than not encounter the issue of knowing where they want to go without being sure of the best, most effective way to get there. Nearly three years ago now, when Jordan Peele's Get Out began to play in front of me for the first time on that cold Thursday in late February, I was granted the sense of this supreme assuredness that continued throughout the entirety of the runtime and through to that perfect conclusion. It wasn't difficult to see every aspect had been labored over and planned to a to T; as if not only the script, but the way in which each shot was constructed and how each line was delivered held a certain weight and intention. Every element had seemingly been executed with precise detail so as to convey this strong, specific point of view. In short, Get Out was a movie where every piece held a purpose all of which led to a culmination that fully displayed the power of the narrative, the charisma of the characters and the masterful way in which the filmmaker used the genre he was operating in to make his complex ideas accessible. This is all said not in an attempt to remind readers of how satisfying Get Out is, but to say all of this is very much true of Rian Johnson’s Knives Out as well.

FROZEN II Review

As a parent who has seen Frozen approximately 108,054,523,678,245 times it would be easy to go into a sequel with a cynical mindset expecting directors Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck to repeat themselves or simply recycle the rather exceptional visual and auditory elements that worked so well the first time, but have been consumed so frequently since that it now seems there was never any other option for what that film was meant to be or be received in any other way than becoming the cultural milestone that it did. There is also the inherent fear that studios will play it safe to the point they will simply re-fashion the first film to include a few new characters and a few new songs that will have the old characters go through the same motions of learning the same lessons, but never actually having them grow in any real or meaningful way. With this film in particular though, this never seemed as if it was going to be a concern-otherwise this sequel would have arrived three years ago. What made the idea of Frozen II exciting from the first teaser was the fact it seemed apparent the writing and directing team were intent on not repeating themselves-at least as far as narrative went-for even though Frozen II ultimately comes to explore many of the same themes touched upon in the original film it isn't doing so in a re-purposed fashion, but more expanding on them-namely, the idea of love not solely being that of a romantic quality, but that this greatest and most mysterious of all emotions is maybe even more genuine when there is no romantic factor to the equation, but is instead a pure, authentic, respectful appreciation of and connection to another being. This is a sequel that is admittedly a tough one to crack as it explores the ripples left over from the first film's complex emotional arcs. Furthermore, there's this idea that the world of Frozen only needed to be expounded upon if there was a desire for it and while the answer to that might seem obvious given the amount of money the first film made when taken on face value there was no real need to fill in further historical moments from the history of Arendelle. Still, Frozen II has many things on its mind and chief among them is allowing its two protagonists to come to terms with how they wound up in the crazy positions the events of the first film landed them in; if Frozen was about Elsa and Anna figuring out who they are then Frozen II is about them figuring out who they were meant to be and how well that aligns with who they've actually become.

A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD Review

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood is not so much about Mr. Rogers as it is about how the ideas and values Mr. Rogers taught permeated through unto others. Fred Rogers was, among many things, the host of a children’s television show, but he was seemingly first and foremost a psychologist who just so happened to practice through the veil of a children’s TV show. He used this platform to help children better understand the world around them, but as director Marielle Heller (Can You Ever Forgive Me?) conveys in her new film it wasn’t just the children who could gain something from Mr. Rogers' lessons in grace and humility. The movie works as well as it does not only because it takes a unique approach to the profiling of a very famous person, but because viewers are immediately endowed with the weight of Lloyd Voegle’s (Matthew Rhys) situation and quickly become invested in the complicated relationship he has with his father and how that fractured relationship has affected him in recently becoming a father himself. There is nothing that is necessarily revelatory or even terribly unique about Voegle's story (based on journalist Tom Junod's 1998 Esquire cover story), but Heller and screenwriters Noah Harpster and Micah Fitzerman-Blue pull us into the inherent drama of Voegle’s situation with the idea this could be anyone in any situation, but given the nature of his job it is someone like Voegle who was allowed the opportunity and access to Mr. Rogers needed in order to tell this type of story. This is Voegle's movie, make no mistake, as he is our lead whereas Tom Hanks' Mr. Rogers is merely a supporting player, but the arc that Voegle experiences is that of someone who's become a cynical adult and a relentlessly gloomy adult at that into someone who believes in the authenticity of Fred Rogers and therefore hopes to heal and better himself because of it. It is through his encounters with Mr. Rogers that Voegle is reminded of a childhood he could care less to remember, but Rogers doesn't so much care to remind him of his own childhood as he does encourage him to remember what it felt like to be a kid in the first place. We were all children once. This is Rogers’ mantra and something he reiterates time and time again in the rare moments he does return the favor and speak. And though A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood might not be the faithful adaptation of Fred Rogers' life as it was purported to be in the marketing it very much captures the essence of who this man was and how the way he conducted his own life helped countless people navigate theirs.

Tavern Talk: Video Review - FORD V FERRARI

Fox's Ford v Ferrari more than lived up to expectations as it topped the domestic weekend box office with $31 million. The performance was well ahead of industry expectations and was no doubt boosted by the "A+" CinemaScore opening weekend audiences granted the film. That audience was largely male as men made up 62% of ticket-buyers with 79% of all tickets sold being to those over the age of twenty-five. Internationally, Ford v Ferrari brought in another $21.4 million for a $52 million global debut on a $98 million budget and while that may seem a steep hill to climb this thing is going to play like gangbusters over the Thanksgiving holiday and maybe even well into December. Needless to say, the James Mangold-directed feature starring Christian Bale and Matt Damon isn't an "opening weekend" type of film, but is more an old-school studio programmer whose appeal will last far past the first three days of release. Unfortunately, the same can not be said for Sony's attempted re-boot of Charlie's Angels as the Elizabeth Banks-directed actioner starring Kristen Stewart, Naomi Scott and Ella Balinska failed to reach even the lowest of expectations, meaning the third place finish for the film might suggest the overall performance of the box office. This new iteration of Charlie's Angels was expected to open anywhere between $12-13 million (the 2000 re-boot starring Cameron Diaz, Drew Barrymore and Lucy Liu was made for $98 million and made $13.7 million in its first day of release on its way to a $40 million opening weekend), but it was unable to hit even double digits, delivering a disappointing $8.6 million debut. The $48 million production received a "B" CinemaScore from opening weekend audiences, which suggests it's not terrible, but more that people just didn't care. Internationally, the film garnered an additional $19.3 million for a $27.9 million global debut. The other new wide release of the week, Warner Brother's The Good Liar, starring Sir Ian McKellen and Dame Helen Mirren delivered on expectations with a $5.65 million opening. Last week's box office champion, Lionsgate's Midway, slipped to second in its second week with $8.75 million and a domestic cume that now tops $35 million. Paramount's family friendly Playing with Fire, held extremely well in its sophomore frame adding another $8.55 million for a domestic total that now stands at $25.4 million on a $30 million budget. Rounding out the top five was Universal's Last Christmas with $6.7 million, pushing the film's domestic cume to $22.6 million on a budget of $25 million. Internationally, the film added $8.6 million for a $13 million overseas cume and a global total that now stands at $35.5 million. And finally, Joker became the first R-rated movie to ever top $1 billion at the global box office. 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!

New Trailer for CATS

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

FORD V FERRARI Review

Ford v Ferrari is what one would call a well-rounded picture. Meaning, that it is wholly and completely a feel-good movie while also carrying a significant amount of weight. In other words, it will break your balls and your heart at the same time. It is big, flashy and somewhat indulgent large-scale studio filmmaking in the most classic sense of the idea as director James Mangold (Walk the Line, Logan) casts two larger than life personalities to portray two larger than life personalities against the backdrop of an historical event that is globally appealing yet couldn’t feel more American at its core. This is somewhat ironic given the type of racing Matt Damon’s Carroll Shelby and Christian Bale’s Ken Miles are seasoned in and the kind the Ford Motor Company is interested in engaging in is far more popular in the rest of the world than it is the United States, but like I said...well-rounded. While Ford v Ferrari boasts an impressive ensemble cast and truly immersive racing sequences that sometimes almost literally put you in the driver's seat the film is at its best when focusing on those two larger than life personalities and dissecting these men who, in many ways, are rightfully convinced of their own certainty but who take blows to their egos when they have to deal with things they aren’t expressly exceptional in. Whether it be Shelby coming to terms with his fragile mortality, Miles dealing with the bureaucratic nature of corporations as his intelligence and skill come face to face with entitled money and extending even to Henry Ford II (Tracy Letts, who's terrific) as he-someone who has every reason to believe he's in full control of every aspect of his life-is humbled in an instance where he comes to not only realize, but understand that there are things he simply can't understand and will never be able to control. Ford v Ferrari isn't necessarily about the tampering of men's egos and it doesn't aspire to explore the manifestations of as much through these cars and the amount of risk being taken by their drivers, but more it seems to seek to better understand these people through this thing they've given their life over to whether it be out of passion or inheritance. With such strong attitudes and strong points of view on display these characteristics are naturally lent to the film itself giving the entirety of the production this sense of confidence and control; both of which a good movie and a good driver require in order to be successful.

Tavern Talk: Video Review - DOCTOR SLEEP

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

DOCTOR SLEEP Review

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

Tavern Talk: Video Review - TERMINATOR: DARK FATE

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