Film, Writing

Film Review: BILL & TED FACE THE MUSIC (2020)

★ ★ ★

The good news is that while Bill & Ted Face the Music isn’t excellllllent!, it certainly is far from bogus.
Frankly, it should have been. Resurrecting a series almost three decades after the previous picture is hardly a recipe often for success. Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure and Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey are so inextricably tethered to the late ‘80s and early ‘90s that the idea those characters, and that world, could be revived seems unfathomable. Surely too much has changed? Are we not too cynical to embrace the sweet-natured, MTV generation, latent stoner-kid reverie of films that could not more epitomise the comfort of America’s cultural hegemony at the end of the 20th century if they tried? As it turns out, that is kind of why Bill Preston and Ted Logan’s third outing works so well.
The original films were infused with innocence, trading on established cultural cliches that Western audiences understood and appreciated. Bill and Ted were less dim-witted than amiable, optimistic teenagers who simply wanted to play music, hang out and be excellent to each other, and those films pointedly project their kind, collegiate mindset in the direction of a utopian future that seemed achievable to an America sailing out of the long Cold War. Bill and Ted literally inspired a future build on concepts of friendship, goodness and learning, almost antithetically to their middle-class ‘dude bro’ avoidance of school and learning, which underscored the point: being yourselves, being happy, partying on and caring for one another can make a better future.
It therefore fits that Bill & Ted Face the Music, thirty years on into a decaying century, actively attempts to throw such a utopian mindset in doubt, but counters the prevailing mood by suggesting we can, actually, do better.
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Film, John Wick, Reviews

JOHN WICK CHAPTER 3 – PARABELLUM is high-octane action that doesn’t reinvent the wheel (Film Review)

Parabellum is not an ending. That’s the first point to make about the third John Wick movie. Rather than a conclusion, this is the next part in what is rapidly becoming Hollywood’s most anticipated action franchise.

This feels important to state because it goes some way of approaching Chapter 3 of what most people assumed would be the capper on one of the most fine-tuned and striking Hollywood action movie trilogies of recent years. John Wick and John Wick: Chapter 2 threw some striking components into a cinematic blender – high-concept, hyper-real Hong Kong and Korean kung-fu/action, post-Jason Bourne close quarter fight stylistics, the dark glamour of James Bond and even the comic-book superheroism of The Matrix and brewed them up with a Neo-noir, even Neo-Western visual spectacle. Chad Stalhelski’s franchise manages to do what Gareth Evans’ The Raid films never quite succeeded in doing; taking a pulp action movie concept, filled with influences from the last twenty-five years, and turn it mainstream. Keanu Reeves as the titular assassin no doubt helped – a familiar, likeable household name giving the one-two punch to the chest and reviving his career in the process.

The first John Wick film skews more toward Americana than the subsequent movies; while the chief villains may be Russian, they have a sleaziness about them which only allows Stahelski to hint at the deeper mythology lurking beneath the world Wick inhabits, and while it certainly lays necessary foundations for Chapter 2 and establishes the character successfully, it is only Chapter 2 when Stahelski turns John Wick into a truly iconic 21st century action anti-hero. Festooned with stunning visuals and exemplary action choreography which feels more like a violent ballet than a shoot-em-up, Chapter 2 expands the scale and brings death, throwing obstacle after obstacle in Wick’s way before leaving a tantalising cliffhanger on the bubble which suggested Chapter 3, subtitled Parabellum, would be an intense, thrilling experience.

While that is the case, John Wick: Chapter 3 is also somewhat less revelatory, and an emptier experience than the film that preceded it.

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Essays, Film

LAST ACTION HERO: A film ahead of and perfectly of its time

Last Action Hero is both ahead of its time and perfectly positioned within the era it was made, such is the paradox of a forgotten curiosity of 1990’s action cinema and the stratospheric career of Arnold Schwartzenegger.

Here’s my story and why I’m writing about Last Action Hero some twenty five years on from its release. I was 11 years old when Last Action Hero was released in cinemas, in the US one week after Steven Spielberg’s decade-defining Jurassic Park. In theory, I was the perfect age to consume a film which is entirely about the youthful obsession of a similarly-aged child, Austin O’Brien’s Danny Madigan, with action adventure cinema. Jurassic Park I badgered my parents to take me to see three times yet I didn’t go anywhere near Last Action Hero. It didn’t even register with me.

It has taken me until age 36 to actually sit down and watch it, and this is after spending at least the last twenty years being an enormous fan of Schwarzenegger’s movies and career. Last Action Hero was always the Arnie film I missed.

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