AMMONITE Review

Director Francis Lee's Second Film wants to Pull Viewers in with an Extremely Personal and Human Experience, but Results in a Distant and Emotionally Vacant One.

BLACK BEAR Review

Lawrence Michael Levine's Third Feature Film asks a lot of Questions (Many More than it Answers), but still Makes for a Fascinating Experiment in Introspection.

SOUND OF METAL Review

Riz Ahmed Shines in Darius Marder's Directorial Debut about a Heavy-Metal Drummer Whose Life is Thrown into Freefall When he Begins to Lose his Hearing.

NOMADLAND Review

Frances McDormand Anchors Director Chloé Zhao's Fictional, but Alarmingly Authentic Portrait of a Woman Looking to Discover a New Life in a Dying World.

MA RAINEY'S BLACK BOTTOM Review

Chadwick Boseman's Final Performance is Everything One Might Expect while the Film Exerts Meaning in Every Piece of Dialogue if not in Every Facet of the Production.

Tavern Talk: Video Review - THE GENTLEMEN

This week on TAVERN TALK by initial reaction we were lucky enough to have Fox 16's Michael Cook stop by and discuss STX's The Gentlemen with us, but in terms of box office it was Bad Boys For Life that continued to dominate the conversation. Bilall Fallah and Adil El Arbi's sequel to 2003's Bad Boys II ended its second weekend with $34 million which was enough for the Sony picture to repeat atop the weekend box office, dropping just -45.6% from the film's impressive debut over the holiday weekend last week. This strong performance pushes Bad Boys For Life's domestic total past the $120 million mark after only ten days in release with it now being less than $20 million away from becoming the highest grossing domestic release in the franchise. Needless to say, a fourth film is already in the works though there is question as to whether or not Fallah and El Arbi will return. Personally, while it was necessary for some young blood to reinvigorate the aging franchise if we're going to make a "Bad Boys Fourever" it would be nice to see Michael Bay return to his baby and close out the series that started his career. We're here to talk about The Gentlemen though, and in regards to the new Guy Ritchie flick the results were...not bad? Landing in fourth, The Gentlemen pulled in $10.6 million coming up just shy of the estimated $11 million Sunday projections held for the weekend on an estimated production budget of $18.4 million. Of course, this was never going to break out in the way last weekend's R-rated, action-fueled, male-centric romp did, but as far as Guy Ritchie gangster pictures go this feels par for the course. In early 2001 Snatch earned $30 million domestic on a $6 million budget while seven years later RocknRolla struggled to make $25 million worldwide on a budget of $18 million thus signaling why Ritchie quickly jumped to big studio fare with his Sherlock Holmes films earning a combined domestic total of almost $400 million and well over a billion worldwide before going through the cycle once more with financial disappointments in The Man from U.N.C.L.E. ($107 million worldwide on a $75 million budget) and King Arthur ($148 million worldwide on a $175 million budget) and then returning to tentpole filmmaking with last year's live-action Aladdin adaptation which easily churned out a billion. Fortunately, to go along with an acceptable opening weekend The Gentlemen did receive a strong critical reception and a "B+" CinemaScore from opening day audiences. Internationally, Miramax still holds the rights and following a limited release in just a few markets over the past few weeks, this weekend saw The Gentlemen add another twenty territories where it earned another $3.1 million, pushing the film's early international cume to $22.5 million and a global total of $33.5 million with plenty of room to grow. 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!

THE GENTLEMEN Review

Given my 1987 born ass has always been a fan of writer/director Guy Ritchie's (Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Snatch, RocknRolla) post-Tarantino style that pummels you with said style until you are essentially forced by submission into appreciating it one wouldn't be wrong in recognizing that Ritchie has strayed from that which made him a star in the late nineties/early aughts as his most recent, studio-centric efforts (King Arthur and Aladdin) have not only leaned toward the more conventional in their style, but also in their storytelling. 2015's The Man from U.N.C.L.E. was our first glimpse at the next step in Ritchie's evolution as it was meant to be (no, I didn't see Revolver, but have heard terrible, terrible things) delivering an action/spy thriller very much in line with the attitude of his earlier work while possessing a more refined, more finessed outward style. If the Robert Downey Jr./Jude Law Sherlock Holmes films were the apex of early Ritchie style with a big studio mentality then The Man from U.N.C.L.E. was Ritchie evolving before our eyes and taking it a couple of steps further than he needed to just to ensure us he was in fact maturing. With his return to form as it were though, Ritchie's The Gentlemen finds the filmmaker striking the best balance yet between his past and his contemporary status among his contemporaries. A more subdued and self-aware English gangster romp than his first few features, The Gentlemen compiles many of Ritchie's most recognizable tropes including classic English geezer names and clever overlapping narratives, but most importantly it retains the sense of fun those early films were regarded for as The Gentlemen's pomp and wit are at full exposure more so in the characters than they are anything having to do with the double-crossing, drug-dealing plot we've seen and heard countless times before.

Tavern Talk: Video Review - BAD BOYS FOR LIFE

Twenty-five years ago a buddy cop comedy starring two of TV's biggest stars was made for an estimated $23 million which went on to gross $141.4 million worldwide. It was somewhat groundbreaking at the time to have two black men co-lead a tentpole action flick in a genre that had been made popular by the oddball pairings of Eddie Murphy and Nick Nolte and Mel Gibson and Danny Glover up until that point. Martin Lawrence and Will Smith's debut would put to rest any doubts that the two of them were stars and eight years later they would return to the roles of Mike Lowery and Marcus Burnett for what remains, to this day, director Michael Bay's masterpiece of Bayhem in Bad Boys II. That second film, which featured so many subplots and two different drug runner antagonists who looked similar enough they may as well have been father and son and culminated in Smith and Lawrence's characters driving through a small Cuban neighborhood in a yellow Hummer was made for a staggering $130 million in 2003, but made back its production budget domestically on its way to a cool $273 million worldwide. Seventeen years later and we finally have a third film in the franchise and while I think they should have maybe saved the "Bad Boys 4 Life" title for the next go-around, but alas here we are and Bad Boys For Life defied all expectation and hope not just in its mid-January debut, but in overall quality as the $90 million production from Belgian directing duo Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah pulled in a whopping $73 million over the four-day MLK holiday frame. The film's $62.5 million three-day performance is also the second largest January three-day debut, just behind 2015's American Sniper ($89.26m) as well as Sony's largest R-rated opening ever, topping the $57 million for 22 Jump Street in 2014. Even better is the "A" CinemaScore and 97% audience rating on RottenTomatoes from opening weekend audiences indicating this thing could have some serious legs. Beating the opening weekend numbers of summer tentpoles like John Wick: Chapter 3 ($56.8m), Mission: Impossible - Fallout ($61.2m), Straight Outta Compton ($60.2m) and Hobbs & Shaw ($60m) which all went on to gross over at least $160 million bodes well for the film and the franchise as it's not hard to see this now landing somewhere between $170-$180 million domestic. Internationally, Bad Boys for Life brought in $38.6 million for a current global tally of nearly $112 million after four days in release. Needless to say, we'll probably be getting that Bad Boys 4 much quicker than we did two or three. 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!

BAD BOYS FOR LIFE Review

As an individual who holds a special place in their heart for what was the pinnacle of everything a sixteen year-old boy could want from a movie it always felt something like destiny that Bad Boys II arrived in theaters eight years after the original in the summer of 2003 shortly after I turned sixteen. Bad Boys II was undoubtedly one of the first R-rated features I saw in theaters and I saw it simply on the basis of loving both Will Smith and Martin Lawrence (I'd bought the DVD of Lawrence's live stand-up show, Runteldat, the year before and Smith had always felt near and dear to me as my dad exposed myself and my siblings to The Fresh Prince and Jazzy Jeff's records at such a young age that they would lead to my brothers and I performing his songs at our elementary school talent shows) and so, with no point of reference for why there was a roman numeral in the title I saw Bad Boys II multiple times that summer. The fact it was a sequel to a movie I hadn't seen didn't matter. What I witnessed was Lawrence and Smith unhinged and completely free to do, say and act however they wanted and while I didn't yet know who Michael Bay was I can remember thinking after seeing Bad Boys II that I loved the style of the movie; not just the grandiosity of it, but the saturated look of every moment as we didn't just take it at face value that the movie took place in Miami because the movie made us feel like we were IN Miami...and the movement of the camera-while calling attention to itself, certainly-was still some of the coolest, most inventive camera work I'd seen up until that point. Cut to seventeen years later and for one reason or another a third Bad Boys film never materialized until now. Is it kind of a shame Smith and Lawrence didn't make another Bad Boys flick in their forties thus saving the appropriate title of Bad Boys For Life for the fourth installment that could very well be the film we now have as the third in the series instead? Yeah, it's kind of a bummer, but the extended break also admittedly marks the return of Lawrence and Smith to the big screen as these characters as something truly special and something that-just as I'm beginning to genuinely feel older and rapidly approaching the age Smith was when he made Bad Boys II-no other franchise could have done at this moment in time as Bad Boys for Life both takes me back to what it felt like during that youthful summer when the sun never felt like it would set while also bringing me into the present and reminding me how critical it is that we keep moving forward and don't get too caught up in the past.

Tavern Talk: Video Review - 1917

This week on TAVERN TALK by initial reaction we were lucky enough to have writer/director Daniel Campbell (Antiquities) join us to discuss what is now seemingly the front-runner for Best Picture at this year's Academy Awards in Sam Mendes' WWI film, 1917. While 1917 racked up an impressive ten nominations on Monday morning when the 92nd annual Oscar nominations were announced the film had even more to celebrate when it learned it not only earned an impressive $37 million after its nationwide expansion, but that it also unseated Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker to be the number one film at the box office. 1917 expanded into nearly 3,500 locations last weekend after playing in just eleven theaters over the previous two weeks. Prior to last week, tracking had the film opening somewhere in the $25 million range, but following a pair of Golden Globe wins on January 5th and some seriously strong word of mouth the film ultimately had no choice but to shatter such expectations and given this upcoming weekend only has the action/comedy Bad Boys for Life and family film Dolittle on the docket I wouldn't be surprised to see 1917 gain even more traction after its multiple Oscar nominations. Internationally, the film also debuted in thirty markets adding nearly $20 million, pushing the current worldwide total to nearly $67 million including what it earned in those first couple of weeks of limited release. 1917 also earned an "A" CinemaScore as general audiences seem to agree with the rave reviews being lauded upon it by critics. Yes, folks just like with Zero Dark Thirty (a $24 million opening weekend in 2013), Lone Survivor (a $37 million opening in 2014) and American Sniper (an $89 million opening in 2015) the first major "wide release expansion" of the year is a war themed film ripe with awards buzz and Universal knew exactly what it was doing in positioning 1917 in this spot primed to be consumed by the masses after screening it for critics just before Thanksgiving, letting that positive buzz build for a month before its limited run began on Christmas Day thus leaving both general and attentive audiences anxious to see what all the fuss was about. Kudos to Universal, DreamWorks/Amblin as well as Mendes himself for doing much of the press rounds on this thing and promoting it as an experience that is best seen on the big screen. 1917 is certainly that and while the film didn't make my top ten of 2019 it would certainly land somewhere in the top twenty as it is a film I'd highly recommend for its ambition alone. 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!

Teaser Trailer for MORBIUS Starring Jared Leto

 http://www.reviewsfromabed.com/2020/01/teaser-trailer-for-morbius-starring.html
The first trailer for Sony's second entry in their anti-hero universe, Morbius, has arrived and unfortunately it looks quite similar to Ruben Fleischer's Venom. Venom was an exercise in truly bizarre tone, acting, everything along with its weirdly nineties action aesthetic that sometimes felt more cheap than it did gritty which I have to assume is what they were going for. Luckily, with Morbius we are in much more reliable hands than Fleischer's one-hit wonder-ness as Morbius was directed by Daniel Espinosa, the man behind the likes of Safe House, Child 44 and Life. And while that sentence may be tinged with a certain amount of facetiousness I have liked each of those films to a certain degree and wouldn't label any of them as necessarily terrible. Safe House was a solid action/thriller as was Child 44 even if it had been hacked apart after sitting on the shelf for years and 2017’s Life was a fun little twist on a sci-fi, Alien-esque flick. So, it’s not really Espinosa that’s the cause for concern here, but more it is the writing team of Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless AKA the team behind such runaway hits as Gods of Egypt, The Last Witch Hunter and Dracula Untold (remember how that cinematic universe wound up?) and although a director can do a lot with an otherwise hackneyed script in terms of improving upon it with a certain stylistic approach and hiring actors that elevate the material-and say what you will about Jared Leto’s Joker, but the guy is a solid actor and puts in the time-what honestly feels most at the expense of the studio mentality here is whatever rich character history that comes along with this particular character from the comics. As someone who doesn’t read comics the only point of reference I have with the titular character prior to this is that of the animated Spider-Man series from the nineties, but Morbius was always an indelible presence in that series given he personified the horror genre to a kid who wasn’t allowed to watch horror movies yet. There’s certainly something Sony can tap into here, but only time will tell if Espinosa and crew dig beneath the surface or if they're simply covering the necessary bases. Of course, there is then the matter of that cameo at the end and what it means both for the future of the MCU and whatever Sony is trying to do here while raising serious interest in the details of the deal Kevin Feige and Avi Arad worked out, but whatever the case may be one thing is clear: Spider-Man: Senior Year is going to be nertz. Morbius also stars Adria Arjona, Jared Harris, Matt Smith, Michael Keaton, Tyrese Gibson, Charlie Shotwell, Corey Johnson, Archie Renaux, Abraham Popoola and opens in theater on July 31st, 2020.

2020 Oscar Nominations

Here we are once again with the 2020 Oscar nominations and while I attempt to limit any coverage of the awards season hoopla (simply because there are so many to cover and too little to care about) the Academy Awards are obviously the biggest show of the season and so it was with great anticipation I awaited this morning’s announcements. What had been great about this year's award season up until really this past weekend was that there seemed a real lack of any clear front-runner, though 1917 quickly seems to be taking that spot with an impressive ten nominations this morning including for Best Picture and Director. There have been so many films vying for the attention of awards season audiences this season, including a few that seemed poised to make a big impression this year, but haven't garnered as many accolades as expected including The Lighthouse (which scored a cinematography nom here) and apparently Uncut Gems (my favorite film of the year) and while we're piling on A24 let's just go ahead and acknowledge the fact The Farewell received zero nominations alongside Gems. Returning to what did receive nominations though, while 1917 is currently making a strong case for Best Picture after its $36.5 million box office pull in its first weekend of wide release it was Todd Phillips' Joker that received the most nods with eleven total nominations. The Irishman and Once Upon a Time...in Hollywood join 1917 with ten nominations a piece (though Robert De Niro was not one of those nominations in the Lead Actor category) while Marriage Story, Parasite, Jojo Rabbit and Little Women all came out with six nominations a piece with the most noise surrounding any of those nominations being that Great Gerwig did not receive a directing nod for her sophomore effort, Little Women. While I understand that call to recognize a more diverse array of artists I wasn't the biggest fan of Little Women (I thought it was fine, but didn't fall in love with it) and would have preferred a nomination for The Farewell's Lulu Wang, Queen & Slim's Melina Matsoukas or Olivia Wilde for Booksmart (which also received zero nominations and is a travesty in my opinion). The fact remains though that 2019 was an incredibly string year for film and there were inevitably going to be some great films left off the list. It's also important to remember that just because your choice wasn't nominated that the other films deserve to be degraded; overall, the nominations largely went to deserving films, but we'll dig into all that in further paragraphs. For now, hit the jump for a full list of nominees.

1917 Review

At the risk of spoiling a truly grisly moment in writer/director Sam Mendes' latest film, there is an instance not fifteen minutes into the film when our protagonist, Lance Corporal Schofield (George MacKay), injures his hand on a barbed wire fence. It is not this injury that is cause for the gruesome winces 1917 is sure to induce though, but rather that moment comes a minute or so later when Schofield's mission partner, Lance Corporal Blake (Dean-Charles Chapman), knocks into him as the two hurriedly slide into a trench so as to not be spotted by enemy planes overhead. It is in this moment that occurs shortly after the film has set the stage for our expectations of what we might expect war to really feel like that it then shows us the reality of those expectations in turn aiding the audience in realizing that no amount of preparation or precedent could ever prepare one for the true nightmares that are the unspeakable things one human can subject another human to. It is in this quick, but effective moment that remained with me for the duration of the film's nearly two-hour runtime that emphasizes the power of the film in general over the would-be gimmick of the single-take experience in that not only does Mendes' and cinematographer Roger Deakins' technique provide an enticing challenge for seasoned filmmakers such as themselves, but it is in the challenge of balancing that technique with the ability to tap into something real, something raw and something that speaks to who these two men were in their souls that keeps the audience engaged. Successful or not, the technique of it all will largely go unnoticed by general moviegoers and in turn only make the immersion greater even if that general moviegoer isn't aware of what's creating said effect. Mendes and Deakins have proven time and time again they have the skill to pull off exactly what 1917 does, but for them to ultimately have the artistry to pair that craft with the character's drive to simply do the right thing in accomplishing their mission, a mission that will save hundreds of lives, while being surrounded by the ugliness of humanity on that mission is what makes the immersive quality of the single shot idea worth the trouble; the technique elevating the film to something unexpected not in that it is a dazzling technical achievement, but an emotionally involving experience with real stakes and a clear perspective.

Tavern Talk: Video Review - THE GRUDGE

It's been a minute since I've written one of these box-office catch-up columns and that's largely due to the previous two Wednesdays being Christmas day and New Year's day, but here we are-the second Wednesday of the month-and what do we have to talk about? Sony's new re-make of The Grudge? It apparently "topped" studio expectations with $11.4 million on a $10 million budget, but was only able to round out the weekend's top five with nearly all of the weekend's holdovers in that top five dropping less than 40% compared to the previous weekend. Sure, The Grudge made back its production budget in the first weekend, but it will need a good showing from overseas grosses to break even as the flick will essentially be dead in the water in the U.S. after opening weekend. Besides the fact this weekend holds two new wide releases in Like A Boss and Underwater it also holds two pretty big expansions in 1917 and Just Mercy. One can also count on the fact theaters won't be taking out Star Wars, Frozen or Little Women to make room for newcomers, but it will be The Grudge that must say adios. Further, the film's "F" CinemaScore doesn't bode well for future prospects nor does its day-to-day performance over the weekend as it dropped 28% from Friday to Saturday and 42% from Saturday to Sunday. As The Grudge opened at the bottom of the top five last weekend though, lets take a look at what was ahead of it as Disney's domination continued through the final weekend of the holiday break. In the number one spot for the third consecutive week was Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker topping $450 million domestic and over $900 million worldwide with a $33 million domestic haul over the weekend while adding another $50.5 million internationally. In second was the first of three Sony titles in the top five as Jumanji: The Next Level ended its fourth weekend in release with $26.5 million domestic, dropping just -25% from the previous frame, for a domestic cume of $236.2 million as well as another $42.4 million internationally, bringing the overseas total to $374 million for a worldwide tally of $610 million. Little Women continued to have a strong showing in third place as it garnered $13.57 million this weekend bringing the film's domestic total to $60 million after only twelve days of release as the film added $9.5 million internationally for an overseas cume of $20.4 million and a worldwide total nearing $82 million on an estimated budget of $40 million. Meanwhile, in fourth Frozen II officially became the highest grossing animated release of all time reaching $1.325 billion worldwide. 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! 

THE GRUDGE Review

Andrea Riseborough is the kind of actor who, even in a movie like 2020's re-make/sequel(?) of The Grudge, goes to the extent of having her character sport certain tattoos that are never brought up, but that she probably knows the backstories of which undoubtedly inform some of the character choices she makes even if those tattoos only make it into a handful of shots in the final film. This is kind of the perfect distillation for the ratio of talent involved versus the quality of the final product for this new take on Takashi Shimizu's Ju-On property. Meaning, there is a depth to the writing, directing and acting here (or at least a certain level of credibility) that is lost in the final edit; glimpses of what could have been only showing up in a handful of moments in the final cut. If you've seen writer/director Nicolas Pesce's 2016 feature debut, The Eyes of My Mother then you know the filmmaker is adept at tackling the unsettling and framing it within such an atmosphere that it truly becomes one of those situations where you want desperately to look away, but can't help but to continue to watch for fear of the unknown. Unfortunately, with his latest all one really wants to do is look away and not for fear of missing out on what happens to the film's characters, but because we largely don't care about what's happening to them in the first place. As stated, there are hints at reasons as to why we might be inclined to care about any one of the recognizable faces on screen and the peril they're facing whether it be John Cho and Betty Gilpin's plight as new parents, Frankie Faison and Lin Shaye grappling with mortality or Riseborough and Demián Bichir coming face to face with their fears, but the screenplay spreads these scenarios and characters so thin with such disparate connections to one another that it's difficult to become invested in any of them and easier to simply give up on all of them. Besides the fact no one was necessarily asking for another installment from this franchise there seems to be no particular motivation even from Pesce's script to try and tap into the core idea of what the curse at the heart of The Grudge is really about; a curse that is born when someone dies in the grip of extreme rage. Shimizu's original short films, like this new version, operated as seemingly unconnected vignettes that are pulled together by police investigating the various, strange events, but whatever it was that made those original films launch the franchise The Grudge has become today has been lost in translation in this latest iteration.

First Trailer for A QUIET PLACE PART II

Happy New Years! To celebrate, as promised, Paramount has released the full trailer for John Krasinski’s upcoming sequel, A Quiet Place Part II. The what-is-suspected-to-be unnecessary sequel picks up right after the events of the first film and follows the Abbott family as they venture into the unknown and discover that there are more than alien monsters threatening their lives. I act cynical, but have enough goodwill for both Krasinski and his wife/star Emily Blunt that I'm rooting for them to pull this off. As for the trailer itself, Krasinski immediately shows off that he still has the goods with what looks to be a single take trip through the small town where the Abbott family lived on the day this alien invasion began as the shot concludes with as harrowing a moment as could seemingly be conjured. From here, we are brought into the moments immediately following the events of the first film AKA the moments when Blunt's now widowed Evelyn is attempting an escape from their once safe quarters with her two older children (the returning Millicent Simmonds and Noah Jupe) and new infant which seems to instantly prove more difficult than expected. It's difficult to tell where exactly Krasinski is taking these characters in this new film (he is solely credited as the screenwriter with others only receiving character credits) though this teaser would suggest that the other humans outside of the world of the first film will be just as much the enemy of our heroes as the aliens are. I'm also somewhat cautious to be too "in the bag" for this sequel due simply to the fact that the first film came out of nowhere and was successful largely due to the hook of its elevator pitch yet this first trailer for the second film shatters the core of that pitch by having more dialogue in its two minutes than the entirety of the first film featured; the fear being this film will inevitably become a riff on something akin to The Walking Dead or Spielberg's War of the Worlds than it will be an equally clever take on the same premise of the first film. Again, I'm rooting for it, but I would be lying if I said there wasn't some serious hesitation towards the film especially considering A Quiet Place was one of my favorite films of 2018. All shall be revealed shortly as A Quiet Place Part II opens on March 20, 2020 and also features supporting turns from the likes of Cillian Murphy and Djimon Hounsou.