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.

THE INVISIBLE MAN Review

I've said it countless times in reviews for the likes of 2009's Friday the 13th, Ryan Coogler's Creed and the Safdie Brothers' Good Time, but I'll say it again as one can glean very early on that there has been tremendous care and a deep pride taken in crafting writer/director Leigh Whannell's (Upgrade) re-interpretation of the H.G. Wells story, The Invisible Man, and we know this due simply to the way in which the title sequence is conveyed. Do I wish Whannell and co. might have saved the main title until after the breathtakingly tense opening sequence? Absolutely, but does this take away from the fact Whannell pays homage to the 1933 adaptation starring Gloria Stuart by opening on such a classic horror setting as a stormy night in a mansion perched upon a hill as the falling rain outside gives only the slightest hint of light in the dark (almost as if the film were in black and white) as the rain drops begin to outline text across the screen? No, no it does not. Not at all. And have no fear, for the entirety of this review will not consist of how well this little touch of brilliance sets the table for everything that comes after, but know that everything that comes afterward is all nearly as brilliant. 2020's The Invisible Man is both a product of its time in that it casts Elisabeth Moss in the lead as a suppressed, but capable woman stuck in an abusive, controlling relationship who-even when she escapes her brutal fiancé (The Haunting of Hill House’s Oliver Jackson-Cohen)-has a difficult time accepting this freedom due to the nature of her life as it was with him and of course, her worst fears come to be realized when she not only senses that Adrian is still alive after it's been reported he killed himself, but through how he terrorizes Moss' character by slowly cutting ties with every person in her support system and painting her as the one who has lost her mind. This is what makes The Invisible Man so frightening as the film itself is not necessarily "scary", but it’s a critical look at manipulation and the power this allows not only for one person to have over another, but how this power spreads to other people’s perception of you leaving one with their own self-doubts despite knowing deep down they aren’t the crazy one. Adrian is a master manipulator who gaslights Moss' Cecilia to the extent that, as a viewer, your frustration is boiling over by the time Whannell reaches his third act; not to mention the shock and rawness through which the director has executed this psychological breakdown given the rather fantastical elements of the scenario. In short, The Invisible Man might not break any new ground as far as story or scares go, but it does what it intends so well that it's difficult to deny the effectiveness of the monster or the message.

Tavern Talk: Video Review - THE CALL OF THE WILD

The newly minted 20th Century Studios released their inaugural film with the Harrison Ford-starring remake of The Call of the Wild and while it was number one in our hearts at TAVERN TALK this week it couldn't manage enough moolah to be number one at the box office as Paramount's Sonic the Hedgehog managed a second weekend at number one with $26.2 million, pushing the film's domestic cume past $106 million after just ten days in release. After only two weekends, Sonic already ranked as the fourth largest video game adaptation domestically of all-time and as of Monday it surpassed The Angry Birds Movie's $107.5 million to become the third largest earner in terms of that domestic video game adaptation stat. Internationally, Sonic added another $38.3 million, pushing its international cume to $96.5 million for a global tally that presently sits north of $216 million for the $95 million budgeted family flick. As for the weekend's biggest new release, The Call of the Wild finished in second place with $24.8 million, but with a reported production budget of $135 million (thanks, CGI Buck) and God knows how much more in marketing costs on top of that Disney and 20th Century Studios are going to need this one to have legs for days and for those Jack London Funko! collectibles and plush Bucks to sell like hot cakes-not to mention downloads of that Call of the Wild-themed video game for Nintendo Switch having to put up impressive numbers for all of this to pay off. I'm kidding, of course; a family-friendly re-telling of of the brutal, middle-school adventure story isn't exactly easy pickin' for cross promotional merchandise and yet...here we are. As of two days ago the film sat at $45.7 million worldwide with only $16 million coming from international markets. The issue is that The Call of the Wild tells a distinctly American story and while opening weekend audiences seemed to enjoy the film well enough (it earned an "A-" CinemaScore and a 90% audience score on RottenTomatoes) it's hard to imagine after the successful, but not necessarily justifiable opening weekend numbers that this will have the endurance to rationalize the amount of money the studio spent on this thing. The only other new, wide release last week was STX films and Lakeshore Entertainment's horror sequel Brahms: The Boy II which earned $5.8 million domestically and $2.22 million internationally for a global total just over $8 million which, while neither audiences nor critics were fans, isn't bad for a film that only cost $10 million to make. 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 CALL OF THE WILD Review

Director Chris Sanders, a man who has made his bones on animated features like Lilo & Stitch, How to Train Your Dragon and The Croods, might not seem like the first choice to adapt a novel originally published in 1903 with a story that follows a dog named Buck and contains a sentence that is described in as frank a nature as, “They closed in upon her, snarling and yelping, and she was buried, screaming with agony, beneath the bristling mass of bodies,” and yet that’s exactly where we find ourselves with this latest adaptation of the Jack London novel in 20th Century Studios’ The Call of the Wild. Though I’d never read the relatively short novel the film is based on nor had I seen either of the previous film incarnations (Clark Gable starred in a 1935 version while Rutger Hauer starred in a 1997 version) given the marketing campaign and the PG-rating I hadn’t anticipated that the source material was as brutal and unflinching as it apparently is especially when considering the fact that it’s immediately apparent that Sanders’ version of this story is one for families to enjoy and for dog/animal lovers to find the purest of entertainment in. Of course, this is mostly what I did expect from this version and so it more or less went without saying that despite much of the fuss in the run up to the release centering on the animated lead and the inherent comedy in picturing Harrison Ford acting opposite a tennis ball the fact Sanders’ background is in animation and the fact the project rung with a sense of commitment and passion for Ford more or less led to a more rewarding experience than a ridiculous one. Yes, there are still moments in which the CGI is heavily relied on and the animals look about as real as a stuffed animal, but more times than not the CGI-renderings of these wild creatures look and feel exceptionally real. This brings us to what 2020’s The Call of the Wild does well in that, despite our lead character-Buck-being a CG creation (with the help of Terry Notary), the film genuinely allows its audience to invest in Buck as a character and chart his journey as we are not only endeared to his personality, but we root for him in the sense that wherever his passions lie, we hope his strength takes him there. This, of course, is why Sanders and co. would want the freedom a CG Buck might afford them and, while likely not faithful to its source material in any true way, this Michael Green-penned adaptation conveys more a journey of growth and catharsis than it does a simple, three-act piece of family entertainment which, unlike almost everything else about the film, was completely unexpected.

Tavern Talk: Video Review - SONIC THE HEDGEHOG

After being delayed three months so Paramount could redesign their titular character (adding $5 million more dollars to the $90 million production) Sonic the Hedgehog finally arrived in theaters over the holiday weekend and defied expectations by delivering the largest opening ever for a video game adaptation. With a $70 million, four-day holiday debut and a $58 million Friday to Sunday gross Sonic topped last May's Pokemon Detective Pikachu ($54.4 million) to become the largest three-day opening ever for a video game adaptation. In finishing with that aforementioned $70 million over the four-day weekend the film, based on the iconic SEGA video game, is now the fourth largest Presidents' Day opening ever. Sonic not only performed well this weekend, but was a hit with audiences as well, earning an "A" CinemaScore and a 95% audience rating on RottenTomatoes. Furthermore, the opening weekend audience for the film supplied the stat that 70% of tickets sold were for those under the age of twenty-five. In second is where we find Warner Brother's Birds of Prey as it brought in another $17 or so million over the three-day and delivered almost $20 million for the four-day holiday frame, pushing the film's domestic total to nearly $62 million. Internationally, the film generated another $23 million over the weekend as the film's international cume now totals $83.6 million, pushing the global tally to $145.5 million on a production budget of $84.5 million. Rounding out the top five is Sony's Bad Boys for Life, which brought in $11.5 million over the three-day to finish with just over $13 million for the extended weekend as the sequel now tops $182 million domestic with a global cume of $368 million. In other news, the weekend's other two new wide release, Sony's Fantasy Island and Universal's The Photograph, finished in third and fourth place with only $504,493 separating the two at the end of the four-day weekend. Neon's Parasite received a huge bump for its many wins at the Oscars as the South Korean film expanded into over 2,000 locations over the weekend bringing in an additional $5.7 million. This performance pushes the film's domestic gross past $44 million, currently making it the fifth largest foreign language release ever. The other new release last weekend, Searchlight's re-make of the Swedish film, Force Majeure, titled Downhill and starring Will Ferrell and Julie Louis-Dreyfus landed just inside the top ten by barely clearing $5 million over the holiday frame with bad reviews and poor audience reception hinting this thing will disappear before the month is up. 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!

SONIC THE HEDGEHOG Review

Sonic the Hedgehog is the kind of straight-down-the-middle piece of live-action family entertainment that we just don’t get as often as kids fed on this particular genre in the nineties were once accustomed to. At a certain point in time, it seemed as if audiences on the verge of puberty, but not quite there, were delivered a sports-themed adventure or underdog story featuring kids their own age on an annual basis-whether it was The Sandlot, The Little Giants, The Mighty Ducks, The Big Green, A Kid in King Arthur’s Court or Angel’s in the Outfield-the point is there were plenty of options not only for the youngest of youngsters, but for tweens before people even knew what tweens were. Lately though (and when I say lately I mean the last twenty-five years or so lately) that demographic has been lumped in with the more sophisticated audiences required to digest the lofty animated expectations of studios such as Pixar. That said, having never been a fan or player of Sonic the Hedgehog there was no real emotional or nostalgic connection to the original Sega property or its many animated incarnations over the years. As a live-action adaptation of a popular nineties video game is the closest we get to any of those aforementioned titles these days though, director Jeff Fowler’s feature directorial debut then fills the nostalgic void left by the absence of such titles by default. Fowler and/or Paramount Pictures seems to have known this to be the case thus their main objective becoming to not only entertain the kiddos of today with an updated take on a character they might have seen an episode of or played a game with at one time or another, but also to hone in on the same fan base that threw a fit when the first, original trailer for the film was released and the design of the titular character garnered such backlash that the studio delayed the release of the film and re-designed its CGI star completely. That is to say, not only did Paramount realize there was a large fan base for this property, but a passionate one as well and one that was not only anxious to see a childhood favorite get the live-action treatment, but to re-capture the feelings this character inspired and to re-live this time in their lives that Sonic represents. To this extent, Paramount went the extra mile and hired Jim Carrey to play the role of the antagonist in the evil Dr. Robotnik. This isn’t the Jim Carrey of Mr. Popper's Penguins or even Yes Man though, no, this is the Jim Carrey of The Mask or Ace Ventura as the fifty-eight year-old pulls off his most physically comedic role in what feels like forever to what I can only imagine is the pure joy and delight of thirty year-olds everywhere. It is this combination of Carrey playing the hits combined with the genre re-vamping that leads to Sonic the Hedgehog being as appealing as it ends up being, for despite not having any nostalgic connections to the character itself, these elements make up for this as Fowler’s film more or less accomplishes what it sets out to accomplish and will satisfy any resident of the 16-bit gaming era while still not mustering enough excitement to write home about it…and if I remember anything about The Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog from my Saturday morning binges in 1993 that feels about par for the course.

Official Trailer for Wes Anderson's THE FRENCH DISPATCH

The first trailer for Wes Anderson's follow-up to his 2016 stop-motion film, Isle of Dogs, is here and is his first live-action film since what is arguably his masterpiece in 2014's The Grand Budapest Hotel. The French Dispatch “brings to life a collection of stories from the final issue of an American magazine published in a fictional 20th-century French city.” Per usual, Anderson rounded-up quite the cast for what will be his tenth feature with both new additions and some returning favourites. Bill Murray plays the editor of the aforementioned American magazine who is trying to put together this publication’s final issue. As this narrative is happening, the audience will see three different stories being covered by his staff members come to life in a way only Anderson could seemingly conceive. It is in bringing to life these three different stories that I assume Anderson adopts the different visual styles we see glimpses of in this first trailer; there is of course the black and white, but the predominant characters of those clips also appear in clips that are in color while there also looks to be a circular shot of a host of characters that feels very out of character for Anderson. The fact I'm wholly intrigued by a director's choice to use a certain kind of shot over his typical, perfectly symmetrical style of framing is proof enough as to why Anderson is not only engaging as a filmmaker, but as a storyteller in general. I don't even know where else to start with how excited I am about a new, live-action Wes Anderson movie for as much as I love his animated outings there is something about seeing him breathe his vision through a cavalcade of famous faces all perfectly embodying his sense of tone and timing that is both strangely exhilarating and reliably uproarious. And while The French Dispatch looks to not skew too far from what everyone loves about Anderson's work this does have the feeling of the filmmaker having done something very big and quite special to celebrate it being his tenth feature. I wholeheartedly expect Anderson to continue making his own brand of movie for as long as he has something to say, but it will also be interesting to see if he, in any way, is evolving his own style here for despite believing the man is incapable of spinning his wheels it does feel it will be necessary to continue to show growth-even if that growth is only through his storytelling prowess rather than his visuals. The French Dispatch also stars Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody, Wally Wolodarsky, Bob Balaban, Tilda Swinton, Frances McDormand, Timothée Chalamet, Léa Seydoux, Benicio del Toro, Henry Winkler, Elisabeth Moss, Griffin Dunne, Lyna Khoudri and opens on July 24, 2020.

BIRDS OF PREY AND THE FANTABULOUS EMANCIPATION OF ONE HARLEY QUINN Review

If one wants to talk about how much Birds of Prey and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn doesn't care about precedent the movie could essentially be boiled down to a story about a girl, Margot Robbie's Harley Quinn, seeking out a diamond for a guy (a fantastically eccentric Ewan McGregor). No matter what you thought (or didn’t think) of 2016's Suicide Squad it would seem that at the very least the majority would agree that Robbie’s Harley Quinn was a highlight. With that, Robbie both brings us and takes on the Birds of Prey story while continuing to carry on Quinn's arc in a manner that is respectful to a character that hasn't always had the most respect for herself. While the film may take its title from the DC Comics team that made its debut in 1996 and originated from a partnership between Black Canary AKA Dinah Lance (played here by Jurnee Smollett-Bell) and Barbara Gordon AKA Batgirl (who is not in the film), this is mostly a spin-off of that aforementioned David Ayer flick centering on Harley Quinn and the trials she faces as she moves past being more than just the Joker's girlfriend to becoming her own person whereas the project as a whole seemingly serves as Robbie's opportunity to champion the formation of the more traditional "Birds of Prey" line-up so that they might earn their own spin-off. So yes, this is touted as Birds of Prey AND the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn, but while Black Canary, Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and Renee Montoya (Rosie Perez) get their formidable introductions one would be mistaken were they to expect anything more than introductions to these new characters. That said, writer Christina Hodson (Bumblebee) and director Cathy Yan (Dead Pigs) take this combination of different DC elements and characters and create in Birds of Prey an energetic, vibrant, violent and all-around ambitious yet very playful production where the tone of the film and the world in which it exists are completely representative of the main character anchoring all of the story and action beats. Yes, this is the same Gotham City in which Ben Affleck's Batman once roamed, but as seen through the eyes of a crazed former psychologist who wants to blaze her own trail Gotham City possesses a more manic zeal that Yan stylizes to the hilt even when the Guy Ritchie-like narrative becomes muddled in moments. It is in this fresh and enthusiastic-feeling direction that Birds of Prey really comes together as Yan, despite not having the time to fully flesh out each of the individual members of this femme force, delivers a thoroughly entertaining and endearingly practical movie that doesn't upend expectations as much as it throws them out the window completely; giving the audience something wholly unexpected to experience yet completely satisfying in ways they probably didn't know they were ready for.

Tavern Talk: Video Review - GRETEL & HANSEL

For the third week in a row Sony's Bad Boys for Life topped the box office as the long awaited third film in the franchise has now become the series' biggest film topping $148 million domestically. It also helps that the competition has been rather light over the past few weeks as well with both of this past weeken's newcomers failing to meet expectations and one almost failing to even make it into the top ten. With a total just shy of $17.7 million over its third weekend and another $30.8 million internationally, Bad Boys' international total now stands at $142.7 million for another franchise best equaling out to a current global cume of $271 million. It is in fourth place that we find the first newcomer in United Artists Releasing's Gretel & Hansel opening with just $6 million on a reported production budget of $5 million. This performance doesn't come as much of a surprise given the limited amount of promotion and press anyone involved has done as well as considering the fact it's the fourth horror/thriller to be released in theaters over the last five weeks. While I found more to appreciate than dislike about the film it seemed no one cared enough about the film or were interested in another "dark take" on a widely known fairy tale to go out of their way to see it over Super Bowl weekend. Opening weekend audiences gave the film a "C-" CinemaScore with a measly 20% audience rating at RottenTomatoes which I can understand given the slow pacing and lack of jump scares, but c'mon people! 20%?!?! That's insane! And so, while Gretel & Hansel will suffer a fate it doesn't wholly deserve and be forgotten by the end of next weekend it seems Paramount's The Rhythm Section, starring Blake Lively and based on a series of novels by Mark Burnell, will face a fate even worse as the $50 million flick brought in just over $2.7 million in its first weekend frame from 3,049 locations for what amounted to only a $918 per theater average AKA the worst opening ever for a film debuting on over 3,000 screens. 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!