BAD BOYS FOR LIFE Review

Will Smith and Martin Lawrence Return to Michael Bay's Bad Boys Franchise Sans Bay, but the Chemistry and Passage of Time Help this Third Installment Shine.

1917 Review

Writer/Director Sam Mendes and Cinematographer Roger Deakins Craft a Technically Exceptional Film While not Skimping on the Emotional Aspects of War.

DOLITTLE Review

Robert Downey Jr. Departs from the Iron Man Character for the First Time in Some Time in this Overwhelmingly Bland Adaptation that Clearly Could have been More.

JUMANJI: THE NEXT LEVEL Review

The Rock, Kevin Hart, Jack Black and Karen Gillan Return in Their Second Video Game Adventure that Continues to Largely Defy Expectation.

STAR WARS: EPISODE IX - THE RISE OF SKYWALKER Review

JJ Abrams Conclusion to the Skywalker Saga is Everything and Nothing at the Same Time; Offering Grand Escapism with Little Heart.

Top 10 of 2019

2019 wound up being a more interesting year than the first six or so months would have led one to believe. There are only three movies on my final list that were released in or before June and only two that I actually saw during those first six months of the year. This, of course, isn't to say nothing of note was released in the first half of 2019 as there were certainly contenders for my top 10 released during those months such as Midsommar, John Wick, Yesterday, The Farewell, The Dead Don't Die and The Aftermath, but more that the overall quality of releases increased significantly in the second half of the year to a point the second half seems to have vastly outweighed the first. This has made it difficult to narrow things down to a finite ten films that I will hopefully consider to still be "favorites" in the years to come. And that is ultimately the lesson I've learned this year in that the subjectivity of these lists is so vast and somewhat superfluous to the point one shouldn't feel a pressure to include films others have labeled as "important"" or "the best", but instead they should include the films that feel-ya know-the most personal to the person making said list. These kinds of lists would also always fare better were they put together in a couple years time rather than in a rush in the last few days of the year as one is attempting to cram in all the end-of-year awards contenders while also catching up on everything that might have been missed throughout the year. Of course, there will be those that slip through the cracks-I'm mad at myself for not yet having caught titles like Luce, Her Smell, The Man Who Killed Don Quixote, Monos and Fast Color-though I made as valiant an effort as I possibly could, but naturally still managed to miss more than I would have liked to. Along with the point I was trying to make earlier about a composite list of pre-ordained "best of" films comes the fact there will certainly be what some would consider glaring omissions on my list given you've likely heard a lot about them over the course of the last few months and the fact they will certainly make many others year-end lists. I liked Little Women, but didn't fall in love with it; the same could be said of Marriage Story as well as Portrait of a Lady on Fire. 1917 is legitimately a wonder and I completely understand why it will win all of the awards, but is it a film I personally fell in love with and will re-visit time and time again? Probably not. The Irishman, for all there is to adore with it, simply didn't connect with me in a way that I was either incredibly moved or incredibly wowed by. Insightful? Sure. Handsomely crafted and acted? Of course, but it's not the Scorsese I'll point to when someone asks for a recommendation. I couldn't agree more that each of these films possess inspired moments-moments that transcend the art form even-yet much of the conversation around these feel of the moment and what follows are films I hope will remain a part of my life for much longer.

STAR WARS: EPISODE IX - THE RISE OF SKYWALKER Review

If one was to go back and watch the prequels ("...but why?!?" you cringe!) with as objective a perspective as possible, with the allowance of framing them in a new light given the events of the Star Wars universe that have unfolded since their release it's not hard to see that Emperor Palpatine has always played the role of puppet master, at first hedging both sides against one another before fully giving in to his true Sith tendencies and converting a young Anakin Skywalker to follow him on that path. And while J.J. Abrams initial film in this sequel trilogy, The Force Awakens, seemingly had no interest in resurrecting the long, thought-to-be dead Emperor there is sound reason (believe it or not!) in bringing this antagonist back to round out all three trilogies in a way that makes for a resounding stanza...just as George Lucas always intended. It's about rhyme; a recurring metrical unit where the past predicts the future and the future dictates the fate of our favorite characters. There is a great sense of scope and history in these films and while Disney has admittedly fumbled a massive opportunity with these sequels, Star Wars: Episode IX - The Rise of Skywalker, seeks to try and rectify the lack of cohesion in this latest trilogy and bring everything together through that aforementioned scope and history in a fashion that is both meaningful to our new heroes while imparting the identity of those original heroes to inspire this new generation to continue to work towards the betterment of the galaxy. Yes, The Rise of Skywalker more or less crams two movies into one and yes, it is genuinely disappointing that this series wasn't better constructed from the beginning given how much this world means to so many people, but taken what we're given Abrams and co-writer Chris Terrio (Argo) are able to connect the dots in a satisfying enough way where the right questions are answered, some mysteries remain yet feel destined to be unraveled on Disney+ while other inquiries are made that no one seemed to be asking, but are quickly brought up and resolved just as swiftly that it's as if Abrams was taking out double coverage just in case. It's impossible to please everyone and as much as I hate to admit it as a long-time, but not die-hard fan of the franchise, the discourse around these films is often toxic and demeaning. It's okay to simply enjoy whatever brings a smile to your face and more often than not, as I sat experiencing The Rise of Skywalker for the first time, I had a smile on my face.

BOMBSHELL Review

They may as well have called this Half Baked 2, but not because the idea to make a movie about a group of women who decide to take on Fox News head Roger Ailes (portrayed here by John Lithgow) is a foolish move to make, but more because it's evident a half hour in that the choices here weren't really thought through and not near enough time has passed since these events occurred to accurately depict what might be the interesting ramifications from the fallout of men such as Ailes losing their power; we need to know what a non-toxic atmosphere looks and feels like before acting like we can really assess how bad these toxic ones truly are. Still, this movie exists and it's trying its damnedest to be a political satire via Adam McKay. Given there was much to look forward to about the project outside of simply telling a relevant and intriguing story there was hope that director Jay Roach (Austin Powers, Meet the Parents, Trumbo) and screenwriter Charles Randolph (The Big Short, Love & Other Drugs) might find a unique angle on how to infiltrate the chaotic world behind the 24-hour news cycle that would feel fresh if not exactly revelatory. While Bombshell hits the ground running and is happy to welcome the audience into this world before beginning to intricately weave these three individual character plights together it, despite always feeling enticing and always feeling as if it's getting ready to really dig into the meat of what it's here to say, ultimately never comes to dig further beneath the surface delivering a cliff notes-like version of a story the average consumer was likely already aware of. Bombshell is a movie with a great beginning and idea for what it wants/needs to be by the end, but it just hadn't yet developed a sound basis for which these ideas could solidly stand on.

Teaser Trailer for Christopher Nolan's TENET

Warner Bros. has released the first trailer for writer/director Christopher Nolan's follow-up to Dunkirk, Tenet, starring John David Washington of BlacKkKlansman (and Denzel's son) in the lead. This teaser, which feels more like an official trailer, shows off what has been described as a “massive action blockbuster” that will cross multiple genres. While not much can be derived from the footage contained here in terms of plotting it would seem Nolan is very much working in the same tone and world as Inception given the covert style mission Washington's character seemingly is involved in. While no plot synopsis even exists yet for the film the official logline released by the studio reads as, "an action epic revolving around international espionage, time travel, and evolution." Everything sounds pretty in line until you get to those last couple of words and you realize there's no stopping Nolan from going as far as he wishes; be it time travel or dealing with...evolution? Nolan undoubtedly has some interesting things to say on these topics and with his endless amount of tools and given the imagery and set-up shown in this teaser, he seems to also have an interesting way of discussing them. What really stands out here is how the film might be playing with time and people's perception of things depending on times construction in the same way Inception played with people's perception of reality and how the lines sometimes blur between what really happened and what was part of an imagined memory that came to you in the night. Per usual, Nolan has stacked his cast with renowned and pedigreed actors with the likes of Robert Pattinson (High Life, The Lighthouse) and Elizabeth Debicki (Widows) serving as strong supporting players here along with Dimple Kapadia (Bobby), Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Kick-Ass), Clémence Poésy (In Bruges), Kenneth Branagh (Dunkirk) and of course...Michael Caine, all co-starring. For all you film nerds and behind the scenes geeks Nolan is also credited as the sole screenwriter on the project and shot the film using a combination of 70MM and IMAX cameras as he re-teamed with Interstellar and Dunkirk cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema (who also delivered one of the most visually arresting films of this year in Ad Astra-see it!). Needless to say, this is one of my most anticipated films of next year. Tenet hits theaters on July 17, 2020.

Tavern Talk: Video Review - JUMANJI: THE NEXT LEVEL

If I'm being honest, I went into last weekend expecting Jumanji: The Next Level to do well enough, but I'd be lying if I said I thought it would manage to beat its predecessor or set off an unprecedented weekend run making it something of a breakout sequel. People enjoyed the 2017 re-boot well enough as it served as a pleasant surprise against the divisive The Last Jedi as it, along with The Greatest Showman, demonstrated what serious legs were all about; Welcome to the Jungle legging it to nearly a billion dollars worldwide off of only a $52.7 million opening. The film would ultimately gross over $404 million domestically and it seems Sony's sequel will in fact take it...to the next level. The $60.1 million opening for the film marks the thirteenth largest December opening ever and the largest December debut for Sony. Of course, the film will face the release of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker this weekend, but given opening weekend audiences gave the film an "A-" CinemaScore along with the fact the film played to a crowd that was only 29% over the age of twenty-five versus the previous installments 45% shows that not only did the sequel bring in a larger crowd, but it brought in a younger crowd putting it in a fantastic position heading into the holiday frame. Internationally, The Next Level added thirty-four new markets after beginning its international release last weekend, pulling in $85.7 million from international markets. The Next Level pushed its total international cume to $152.5 million for a $212.6 million global total. Needless to say, I can't wait for Christmas 2021 when Jumanji: Chinese Democracy opens. The other two new wide releases last weekend, Warner Bros. Clint Eastwood-directed Richard Jewell and Blumhouse's cheap/fast-tracked re-make of Black Christmas failed to ignite the same kind of conversations Jumanji did though, as both films went into their opening weekend with studio estimates pegging them somewhere around the $10 million mark while in reality neither could compete as Jewell only mustered $5 million on a $45 million budget and Christmas pulled in $4.4 million on a $5 million budget. Also of note were a couple of limited releases that performed well last weekend as A24 gave the Safdie Brothers and Adam Sandler's Uncut Gems five initial locations in which the drama delivered the studio's largest per screen opening average ever with $525,498 total for a $105,100 per theater average before the film goes "wide" on Christmas day. Additionally, Lionsgate's Bombshell starring Charlize Theron, Nicole Kidman and Margot Robbie debuted in four theaters in New York and Los Angeles ahead of its nationwide opening this weekend, where it delivered an estimated $312,000 for a $78,000 per theater average. 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!

HONEY BOY Review

"The only thing my father gave me of any value was pain...and you want to take that away?" 

As someone who is less than a year younger than Shia LaBeouf and grew up watching Even Stevens there was no doubt that Alma Har’el’s Honey Boy was going to be something of an emotional endeavor; a deeply moving experience that would both be reminiscent of while also completely unraveling this element of my early teen years that created nothing but fond memories. This is obviously an extremely personal piece and it's tough sometimes to criticize as much, but thankfully there's little need for that here as LaBeouf relays exposure therapy sessions that helped him work through the trauma caused by his relationship with his father during a specific point in time in a way that pieces together both how he grew into the person he's become as well as exploring how he's moved past it. It's cathartic, sure, but for viewers who can remember how naturally funny and flat-out talented LaBeouf came across in that Disney channel show, Honey Boy also serves as this honest, unguarded piece of insight into the pain behind that comedy.

The film goes back and forth between LaBeouf's time as a child actor (referred to as Otis in the film), when he was living in a motel with his father who would come to set and run lines with him, and the post-arrest version of LaBeouf (Lucas Hedges) as he attempts to immerse himself in this treatment that has him repeating these stories that scarred him until they don't hurt anymore. As played by Noah Jupe, twelve year-old Otis adores his father and seeks his affection unabashedly yet his father, James (LaBeouf), has no real idea what it means to be a good dad or role model; instead James simply dismisses any display of emotion with a distant, "wipe your face, Otis. Don't cry in front of me." It's devastating, but so is most of what we see depicted in the film. Jupe's younger Otis is dealing with this father figure who wants to be good to him, wants to be there for him, but isn't good for his development in any sense of the word (his dad nonchalantly offering him cigarettes and booze at the age of twelve) and it seems Otis understands this, but doesn't know another way to navigate what he's experiencing other than to go along with it. There are key lines that stand out as pure truth that one can tell stuck with LaBeouf from his childhood as well, things such as his father resorting to bragging about the sound of his own piss hitting the toilet. Moments when there aren't really words to describe the amount of tragedy being experienced and within many of these scenarios LaBeouf paints one simply has to let the heartbreak wash over them while knowing this little boy has comes out the other side and is doing better. Alex Somers' fantastic score also helps considerably in allowing said tragedy to flow over and around the viewer rather than overwhelm them.

JUST MERCY Review

The third film from director Destin Daniel Cretton (Short Term 12, The Glass Castle) stars Michael B. Jordan, Jamie Foxx, and Brie Larson in the true story of a Harvard-educated lawyer named Bryan Stevenson (based on a book written by the actual Stevenson) who goes to Alabama in the late eighties to defend the disenfranchised and wrongly condemned including Foxx's Walter McMillian, a man sentenced to death despite evidence proving his innocence.

Every single word in that description would lead one to believe Just Mercy is an inevitably powerful film that is both timely and timeless as it touches on the indifference to inequality and justice in our society as its been fated to have been constructed; a world with a “justice deficient” as Stevenson would describe it, so why then...does everything about Just Mercy feel as formulaic as the old gospel hymns referenced within it? There's no taking away that this is a good movie, but there's no denying it goes down exactly as you expect it to also. That isn't to say the story isn't important or to criticize the story the film is telling, but more it is a recognition that Cretton and co-writer Andrew Lanham (The Shack) might have done more to execute this in a fashion not so routine; to find a way of conveying the story in unexpected ways rather than resting on the fact the true story is compelling enough on its own.

On DVD & Blu-Ray: December 17, 2019

New Trailer for TOP GUN: MAVERICK

It has been some time since I've sat down and actually watched Tony Scott's 1986 action/drama centered around students at the United States Navy's elite fighter school who competed to be the best with one daring young pilot learning a few things not taught in the classroom and yet I'm still anxious to see how that once daring young pilot has evolved in what will be thirty-four years since the original. Tom Cruise is obviously reprising his role in the long-awaited follow-up to Top Gun, but after Scott's untimely death in 2012 it seemed the sequel became even more of an uncertainty. It's kind of amazing that everything aligned in order for this film to have come into existence, but here we are with all the music, motorcyclin' and volleyballin' still intact for a legacy sequel in the vein of Creed that will hopefully earn its place along the highly adored original. Director Joseph Kosinski (who worked with Cruise on Oblivion, but also made Tron: Legacy and the severely under seen Only the Brave) has a knack for slick visuals and, as can be gleaned in this new trailer, has seemingly put an emphasis on the practicality of the flight sequences for-even as I watch the trailer on my iPhone-I know without a doubt I have to see this movie on an IMAX screen this summer. Besides the fact it was penned by Peter Craig (12 Strong), Justin Marks (Counterpoint), and Eric Warren Singer (American Hustle), with additional edits by long-time Cruise collaborator Christopher McQuarrie next to nothing is known about the plot of the film and this latest trailer tends to keep things that way. We do know that Val Kilmer will return as Iceman, Miles Teller will be playing the role of the now-adult son of Anthony Edwards' Goose and that Glen Powell impressed producers so much during his initial audition that they created a new, different character just for him. Next to these scant details, this presumably official, but definitely not final trailer for the film merely gives us more of a glimpse at the tone and aesthetic Kosinski has captured as it leans heavily on the familiar imagery that will play on the nostalgia for the original and (hopefully) put the butts in the seats. Cruise seems to be relishing in the opportunity to even make this movie while I'm anxious to see what he does with exploring this character who has seemingly been afraid to move on, but is finally being forced out of said comfort zone by the changing world around him. Top Gun: Maverick also stars Jennifer Connelly, Jon Hamm, Lewis Pullman, Ed Harris and opens on June 26th, 2020.

JUMANJI: THE NEXT LEVEL Review

Much like the challenges a sequel faces in trying to stand on its own while recapturing the magic of what made the original so special, the teenage characters we met in 2017’s Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle have found it difficult to completely move on from their own experiences within the video game world; longing to reclaim such feelings of empowerment and intelligence while not being constrained by their earthly forms-the separation of this experience and actual reality has been tougher for some more than others. This is especially true for Alex Wolf’s character, Spencer, who has spent his freshman year at college feeling completely invisible and unworthy of the long-distance relationship he and Martha (Morgan Turner) are having to actually work for. In this way, Jumanji: The Next Level begins not by jumping straight back into the central gag, but instead by offering a surprising study of why someone in their seemingly logical mind would want to risk their life by going back into the game in the first place. This was always going to be the conundrum for a sequel to the reboot (I feel ridiculous writing that, but it is what it is) as there was no choice other than to either have the same people return to the game or have the video game land in new hands, but regardless of who would be controlling the avatars Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Karen Gillan and Jack Black were still going to be the stars. And so, in Jake Kasdan’s sequel (co-written by Kasdan, Jeff Pinkner and Scott Rosenberg) this somewhat weighty approach is taken in order to explain how another sequel is even possible and while this along with The Rock’s Danny DeVito impersonation, Hart’s superb turn as Danny Glover and Awkwafina’s eventual turn as DeVito are all equally appreciated The Next Level ultimately skimps on the weight of the main idea that’s powering it (not to mention it being the one facet that might allow a hint of the original Jumanji’s tone to seep into this new series) in favor of broader comedy and bigger set pieces. It’s not that these aspects are bad, cheapen the experience or even feel lazy, but more that The Next Level is very much like vanilla ice cream that could have sprung for sprinkles or syrup, but chose not to not because of cost or fear of diluting the inherent flavor, but more out of convenience. Safe without being boring, fun without being interesting, The Next Level is simply fine.

UNCUT GEMS Review

What is maybe the best aspect of the exceptional Uncut Gems is the fact that yes, this is very much Adam Sandler doing something outside of his standard routine, but this isn't Sandler playing serious simply for the sake of proving he can in fact act when the material calls for it. No, this isn't sad or depressed Sandler simply for the sake of being taken seriously, but instead the Safdie Brothers (Good Time) have somehow lured the Sandman into giving both a layered, physical performance while also remaining one that plays off the inherent charm and charisma Sandler naturally possesses. Moreover, he's used perfectly here. So perfect in fact, it's hard to imagine anyone else in this role besides Sandler.

In Gems, Sandler is a jeweler in the diamond district in Manhattan. He’s ingrained in the Jewish community there and he's also a gambling addict. He has a wife (Idina Menzel) and several children, but he also has a girlfriend (Julia Fox) who works with him in his shop during the day and hustles for The Weeknd at night. Sandler's Howard Ratner pawns jewelry from his store to pay off bookies and accumulated debt some of the time, but most of the time he’s using that money to place bigger bets in something of a small scale Ponzi scheme. Context clues aside, the focus of plot comes into view when a giant opal that has been mined from the caves of Ethiopia comes into Ratner's possession. Ratner has plans to auction the rock off as he believes it to be worth untold amounts of money, but he first brings it to the attention of Kevin Garnett (via Lakeith Stanfield's character who will vouch for Howard's product to potential high dollar clientele such as Garnett). The NBA star can't seem to pass up the opportunity to own the stone as he believes it to bring him some type of luck (the film is set in 2013 when the Celtics were facing the Sixers in the Eastern Conference finals) with Ratner making one bad choice after another; deepening his debt rather than his pockets.

LITTLE WOMEN Review

"Writing doesn't confer importance, it reflects it."
"No, writing about it will make it important."

It kind of feels like there's more excitement around Greta Gerwig's take on Little Women for all the factors involved than there is necessarily for the final product itself. Gerwig's follow-up to Lady Bird was going to be anticipated regardless, but given she decided to go with an adaptation of the oft adapted Louisa May Alcott classic only added something of an IP stamp to it; a built-in audience of sorts that became more enhanced given the Christmas day release...Sony knows what it's doing. Add to all of this the fact the film reunites the writer/director with Lady Bird stars Saorsie Ronan and Timothée Chalamet while bringing in the likes of Emma Watson, Florence Pugh, Laura Dern, Meryl Streep, Chris Cooper and Bob Odenkirk to boot and you may as well permanently pencil in a screening of Little Women on your Christmas itinerary from here to forever.

Oddly enough, I recall really enjoying and being somewhat enamored with the 1994 version of this story as my siblings, cousins and I would watch it on VHS on repeat at our Nanny's house when I was probably between the ages of nine and ten. The characters, the lifestyle and period details along with the inherent drama of the piece were all things I can remember being striking about the experience even if, prior to screening Gerwig's film, I couldn't recall many plot specifics. The hope was that Gerwig might find a way to both remind me of what I found so fascinating about that earlier take on the material while undoubtedly bringing her own, unique and deft approach to the themes of gender stereotypes and the balance of family and personal growth that run rampant throughout Alcott's novel.

First Trailer for NO TIME TO DIE Starring Daniel Craig

Daniel Craig is back for presumably the final time as Agent 007 in MGM and Universal's No Time to Die, the 25th film in the long-running British action-spy franchise. While this production has experienced more than its fair share of turmoil, with original director Danny Boyle leaving over unspecified “creative differences,” Craig injuring himself during a stunt and another crew member sustaining injuries during an explosion at Pinewood Studios, this first trailer would show no signs of such trouble to the general moviegoer as it looks both visually and thematically arresting. Directed by Cary Fukunaga (True Detective) from a script by Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, Scott Z. Burns, Phoebe Waller-Bridge as well as Fukunaga himself, the film sees Bond having left active service for a couple of years while attempting to enjoy a tranquil life in Jamaica. This peace is short-lived though, when old friend Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright) from the CIA turns up asking for help. The mission is to rescue a kidnapped scientist, but of course this naturally turns out to be far more treacherous than expected, leading Bond onto the trail of a mysterious villain armed with dangerous new technology.    Rami Malek, fresh off his Oscar win for Bohemian Rhapsody, will embody the new Bond villain while Lashana Lynch is a new MI6 agent that has seemingly risen to the top of filling the void left by Bond.  And while that synopsis may sound rather routine as far as James Bond films go once it begins to play out in the trailer-especially given the narrative connections the Craig films have maintained-it is difficult to deny the charm and intrigue of the world as No Time to Die, at first glance, seems to have tapped into how to perfectly balance the classic tropes and trademarks of a Bond film while also moving the franchise ever so elegantly into present day. No Time to Die also stars Léa Seydoux, Ana de Armas, Ben Whishaw, Ralph Fiennes, Christoph Waltz and arrives in theaters on April 8, 2020.

Teaser Trailer for BLACK WIDOW Starring Scarlett Johansson

Though it still feels somewhat odd still that Phase IV of the Marvel Cinematic Universe will kick-off with what is-as far as we know-a prequel one has to imagine that in a decade or so the current generation too young to see these early phases in theaters will pay little mind to the actual order in which these films were released and simply watch them chronologically instead. And so, while the MCU might be making good on some things it probably should have done much sooner with the release of Black Widow next summer it would seem this little facet of the films existence will soon be forgotten in favor of either how good or bad the film is. In this first teaser, Scarlett Johansson's Natasha Romanoff is heading back to "where it all started" in an adventure that would seem to take place after Civil War, but before the events of Infinity War. Maybe we'll find out how she came into that blonde hair? Either way, Agent Romanoff is on the run and returns to Russia where she is reunited with "family" such as Florence Pugh's Yelena Belova, a character who eventually adopts the Black Widow title, David Harbour as AKA The Red Guardian and Rachel Weisz who is said to be playing another Black Widow, but one who has been through the training and active duty cycle numerous times. Cate Shortland (Berlin Syndrome) directs with the screenplay written by Ned Benson (The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby) and Jac Schaefer (The Hustle). If one is to take away anything from this first look at the film it's that the ensemble seems like a lot of fun and hopefully the more grounded, hand-to-hand combat style of the action outweighs that of what Marvel is clearly baking on for their third act which features a multitude of characters falling through the sky while fighting which looks to be...a little silly, honestly. All of that said, it's hard not to be intrigued simply by the nature of the beast, but it will be interesting to see how much the studio, Shortland and Johansson can convince people to still invest in a character they already know is gone. Black Widow also stars O-T Fagbenle, William Hurt, Ray Winstone and opens on May 1, 2020.

On DVD & Blu-Ray: December 3, 2019

MARRIAGE STORY Review

"She's a mother who plays. Really plays."

"I listen. I play. I put in the time."

The first line occurs very early in Noah Baumbach's Marriage Story while the second comes later-after much change has occurred in the lives of the characters speaking these lines. These lines come from two different characters, but they represent equal recognition of this intangible, but truly difficult quality to possess. It is in this simple connection-this acknowledgement in an admirable sense-that we know from the beginning no matter how ugly things get between Charlie (Adam Driver) and Nicole (Scarlett Johansson) that they will somehow be mature enough to find those lasting connections, those things that transcend their own relationship, that will allow them to find a common ground not only for the sake of their child, Henry (Azhy Robertson), but for the sake of their continued love story-even if the romance of that love lapsed long ago.

Marriage Story
is in fact a love story, but a love story told through the lens of divorce that takes these two people we come to know on a very precise and personal level that we then watch fall further and further away from one another. The rigmarole of divorce turns things into a very impersonal process overrun by other people's opinions and agendas leaving Charlie and Nicole to ultimately find a way to figure things out on their own...doing so through that kernel of a connection the viewer trusts remains between them. Of course, said connections are more apparent to the viewer as some of Baumbach's best writing and directing moments here come when we see either of the two leads true emotions come to the surface outside of the presence of their former partner; each of them becoming what they needed to be for themselves and for one another while they were married after the fact.