Tag Archives: keanu reeves

Movie Review – Bill and Ted Face the Music (2020)

Time for a review, 3.5 dudes.

I think it was Thomas Wolfe who said you can’t go home again and I think of that line whenever one of these movies come out to capitalize on the pop culture products of yesteryear.

Who is this movie for? I remember (sadly, almost like it was yesterday) being a little kid and thinking Bill and Ted were hilarious (still do). The plot of the original Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, if you recall, is that when they are about to flunk their history exam, the leaders of the future send Rufus (George Carlin) in a time traveling phone booth to pick the boys up and go on a tour of actual history, picking up actual historical figures to learn from (and to inadvertently trash a mall due to historical misunderstandings gone awry.)

I even remember the sequel, Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey, where they die and go on an epic quest through heaven and hell, cheating and befriending Death along the way. Heck, I saw this one in the theater. Just like it was yesterday.

Soo….I don’t know. Is this movie for today’s kids? Maybe. Rock and Roll is long dead though. Sad because the first two were heavily rock based, such that they popularized the air guitar. The valley dude bro speak that Bill and Ted engage in is pretty much a thing of the past too.  Well, maybe not in California but its seen way less in movies whereas it was all the rage in 1980s comedies.

It definitely isn’t for Keanu Reeves, though as I watched it, I decided he has a heart of gold. Bill and Ted launched his career and he has been skyrocketing ever since. Now in his middle age, he’s going stronger than strong, his John Wick movies a license to print money so he didn’t have to do this. I assume he only did it for love of Bill and Ted fans who gave him his start.  Alex Winter didn’t go on to achieve Keanu status but I doubt he needed to do this either, so the real life Bill and Ted must think us 1980s/90s era dudes, now pretty long in the tooth ourselves, must still be pretty excellent to give us this dose of nostalgia.

So maybe it is for us fans who are getting up there. Nostalgia can be fun. For me these movies remind me of a happier time. Whether the past was better is always debatable and often we think of the past as being better, not necessarily because it was better for everyone but because it was better for us. We were young. The world was new. Time was on our side and all of life’s seemingly endless doors of possibility had yet to be slammed in our faces.

It makes me wish I had a time traveling phone booth of my own to go back and talk to me after seeing the old Bill and Ted movies and warn myself of all the proverbial rakes that the universe had hidden in the grass for me – where to find them and how to avoid stepping on them.

If you want to see this one, you might want to see the others first. You’ll get the gist if you haven’t, though there are references to the others that brought up vague recollections for me.

The plot is that Bill and Ted have spent the past few decades trying to achieve the destiny they were promised in the earlier films, namely that they would one day write and perform a song so awesome that it unites the world in peace and harmony. In truth, that song is needed more than ever today, but alas, the dudes have not been able to make it happen. Their band, Wyld Stallions, have gone from early success all the way down to the 99 cent bin, leaving them to perform at community center taco nights, the stress of it all draining their marriages to the British princess babes they dragged out of the past.

Don’t get me wrong. The film has its moments. I found one scene where Bill and Ted and their wives/princess babes go to couples’ counseling to be pretty funny. Meanwhile, Bill and Ted’s daughters, basically carbon copy parodies of their younger selves, are a hoot and they do a lot of the film’s heavy lifting.

Long story short, reality is about to collapse and B and T have a new deadline to write that epic song. While middle aged Bill and Ted go on a quest to the future to shake down various old versions of themselves in search of the song, their daughters go back in time looking for the great musicians of the past, seeking their help in producing it.

All in all, I enjoyed it. I do think Bill and Ted are products of the late 80s, early 90s when Rock and Roll was still loved and appreciated. Bill and Ted are able to solve most problems with a trip through time, though in reality, if you’re like me, you’ve realized that once mistakes are made and certain paths are traveled down, they can’t be undone, as much as you might long for a magic phone booth to use to go back and warn your past self of future problems and how to fix them.

Bonus points for a brief, tasteful tribute to the late George Carlin.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy.

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Movie Review – John Wick 3: Parabellum

Prepare for war, 3.5 readers.

BQB here with a review of “John Wick 3.”

John Wick was such a breath of fresh air when it came out so many years ago now.  I say that facetiously because the air was laden with a smelly, corpse stench but you know what I mean.  In a sea of sequels, prequels and reboots, it was something new to latch our hooks into.

And to date, Hollywood hasn’t managed to screw it up…yet.  This third installment doesn’t disappoint, though it does promise a fourth.  Truth be told, this one was good enough that I look forward to a fourth and I suppose that’s the name of the game.  When the movies start to stink, it’s time to call it a day, until the next reboot comes along.

Wick (Keanu Reeves) is on the run following a terrible offense he committed against the all knowing, all seeing high table of hitmen that, at least in this universe, control the actions of all assassins for hire.

The Adjudicator (Asia Kate Dillon of “Orange is the New Black” fame) is on the hunt for vengeance and she puts Wick’s fanboy, Zero (Mark Dacascos) to the task.  With martial arts flare, Zero and company track Wick on a worldwide hunt, with Halle Berry, Angelica Houston, Laurence Fishburne, that guy who plays Ser Bronn of the Blackwater on Game of Thrones, and Ian McShane either reprising their old roles or stopping by the first time, depending on who you might be referring to.

It’s a highly artistic, super choreographed blood bath.  The body count is high and all done with stylish flare.  It’s not something easily described so you’ll just have to watch it.

Overall, this is the best new franchise to come around in a long time, so I hope they keep it up but also manage to end it with the same style as they’ve employed in past films.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy.

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BQB’s Classic Movie Reviews – The Matrix (1999)

You have a choice, 3.5 readers.  You can take the blue pill and wake up, forget that you ever read this pitiful blog, or you can take the red pill and see how far down the rabbit hole this terrible blog goes.

What?  You took the red pill?  What the hell is wrong with you?

I first saw this movie in the theater when it came out in the summer of 1999.  At the time, everyone I knew who saw it thought it was the dumbest movie they’d ever seen.  I, on the other hand, thought it was special, unique, different – a science fiction film that didn’t involve space, or clichés, or wasn’t derivative, something that was brand spanking new.  The Wachowski (then brothers, now sisters) had invented a whole new world that built off itself and it was intriguing.

Plus, the special effects alone made it worth watching.  The slowed down, 360 kicks, spins, the “bullet time” slow motion where characters dodge bullets, all set the standard for other flicks to follow.  It holds up today, and looks like something that Hollywood’s best FX gurus could have made yesterday.

The plot for the uninitiated – Thomas Anderson (Keanu Reeves) lives a lonely, forlorn life as an office drone for a tech company, hopelessly searching for meaning and finding none, even while he stays up all night exercising his hacking skills and surfing the Internet.  It was 1999, so people still thought they might find meaning on the Internet, rather than just the giant reserve of pornography and cat videos it is today (and to be honest, was kind of back then too, just a lot grainier and slower…still if you were willing to wait 12 hours, you might get ten seconds of exceptionally slow, grainy, not worth watching cat footage.)

Impressed with his hacking skills, Thomas, who takes the name “Neo,” is recruited by Morpheus (Lawrence Fishburne in perhaps the most memorable role of his career) and his band of rebels, including Trinity (Carrie Ann Moss), Cipher (Joe Pantagliano) and some others who weren’t that famous so, you know, moving on…

Neo is let in on a big secret.  The world as we know it is not a world at all.  It is a computer program, dubbed “The Matrix.”  The machines have won, they have enslaved humanity by putting them to sleep and hooking up to an array of cords that turn them into living batteries that give the machines energy.  To keep the humans docile, their minds are hooked up to an alternate reality program that makes them believe they are living actual lives in an artificial world.

Those, like Morpheus et. al., who realize the world is fake, know that the world’s rules can be broken.  They can load their brains up with all kinds of survival training, i.e. kung fu, weapons training, etc.  They can run up walls, fire guns with great precision and do incredible kicks where they launch into the air and time stops as they connect their foot to an opponent’s face.

The villain of the film is Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving), a cold, calculating computer program who takes the appearance of a stern Federal agent.  I think Agent Smith is one of the more underrated baddies of sci fi film history.  Darth Vader might come at you like a honey badger on crack, but Agent Smith will, with his monotone, almost school marmish style, lecture you into believing that all hope is lost and that the best option is to give in, and frankly, he is very convincing.  He’s every mean adult you met when you were growing up who told you the rules matter and you better drop your pie in the sky dreams this instant.

It’s funny how you learn as you get older and can watch movies and understand them more.  At 20, I thought this was a fun movie.  At almost 40, I realize it’s double meaning.  Life is “the Matrix” and we often find ourselves weighed down by all these rules that keep us from doing what we want.  “You can’t do this because of XYZ.”

“The Matrix” can mean a lot of different things to different people.  “Taking the red pill” has become part of the cultural language now.  I’ve heard people use that phrase in a variety of contexts, including people on both sides of the political aisle trying to convert others to their way of thinking.

Basically, there’s who you are and who you would like to be and if you stick with the life that makes you unhappy, you’re like Cipher, who decides “ignorance is bliss” and wants to stay in the Matrix because living under the imposed rules is better than going it alone.  And in truth, to break the rules will lead to a period of suffering.  Morpheus and company, by freeing their minds from the Matrix, do enjoy special powers when they return to the Matrix, but when they are out of it, they live in a harsh reality, one where the few surviving humans live in underground tunnels, eat gruel, and are constantly hunted by the machines.

Thus, if you stop following the rules, your life will be hard for awhile.  People will make fun of you, not want to talk to you, you might suffer in a variety of ways, but eventually (hopefully) you’ll master your new life and become the sunglass wearing, black coat wearing kung fu master you were meant to be.

Again, “The Matrix” could be an allegory for whatever it is in your life that is standing between you and what you want.  And it’s entirely possible that you might try to break out of the Matrix and fail.  In the film, the rule is that if you die in the Matrix, you die in real life, because the body can’t live without the mind….and thus, if we think about real life, it is entirely possible that we might break the rules, suffer, and then succumb to suffering.  Maybe Morpheus is right and it is better to live free and suffer than to live a lie.  Maybe Cipher is right and it is better to live as a dupe and follow the rules rather than live in a cave and eat gruel.

Ironically, I assume that the Wachowskis broke out of their own personal Matrix by becoming sisters instead of brothers.  But again, the Matrix can be adapted to whatever beliefs you have and whatever you think is standing between you and becoming who you want to be.

The film holds up.  Although there are some late 1990s things that aren’t around today (the rebels in the Matrix talk to their friends in reality via big cell phones and must seek out a hard line or a telephone booth to get back to reality), the key is that the machines made the Matrix so that the world perpetually remains 1999 forever, even though in reality, it is 2199.

So technically, Hollywood could remake this and set it in 1999 and it would hold up with the film’s rules, though I hope they don’t.  To be honest, this film was unique unto itself.  The sequels that came out almost back to back in 2003 felt like cash grabs and to me, aren’t that memorable.  The second is better than the third though.

STATUS:  Worth a rental, or sometimes I even see it playing on cable so you might find it for free.

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Movie Review – John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017)

Guns!  Knives!  Stylishly choreographed fight scenes!

VGRF here with a review of John Wick: Chapter 2.

Take a gold coin and an OBLIGATORY SPOILER WARNING.

You know, 3.5 readers, back when I was dating that poor excuse for a man, BQB, I went with him to see the first John Wick movie and was pleasantly surprised.  Isn’t it great when you go to a film, not expecting much, only to be blown away by it?

Keanu Reeves, one of the world’s most well-preserved fifty something year olds, reprises his role.  Without getting into the nitty gritty, Wick owes someone a favor and when that favor is called in, whoa nelly, look out when because the shit is going to hit the proverbial fan.

It’s an excellent sequel.  It doesn’t follow the usual sequel mistake of trying to be bigger or badder.  It just carries on the story with all the stylish mayhem this franchise has caused us to grow accustomed to.

From a writer’s standpoint, wannabe scribes can learn a lot.  “Show, don’t tell” is the name of the game when it comes to good writing and both films follow that rule to the letter.

Wick lives in a world where hitmen have rules.  They use gold coins as currency.  There are hotels around the world where they can stay, utilize certain services and enjoy safety from other hitmen while under the hotel’s protection.  Ian McShane plays Winston, one such hotel owner. We learn a bit more about the rules and the people behind them in this film.

As this film series has grown in popularity, it’s no surprise that more and more actors want a piece of the action.  Common, Ruby Rose (who is having a good start to her year if you were one of the 3.5 people who saw XXX: Return of Xander Cage), and Lawrence Fishburne all stop by to trade snide comments and the occasional bullet with Wick.

Keanu’s still got it after all these years.  Whenever he speaks, he still sounds like that California surfer dude we loved in the eighties.  Half the time when he shoots someone I expect him to say, “And I’m Ted ‘Theodore’ Logan.”  (Go rent Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, millennials).

STATUS:  Shelf-worthy.  A third is clearly on the way.  I love it when a first film surprises me and I also love it when the studio doesn’t screw up the inevitable cash grabbing sequel once the first film generates a fan base.  Worth a trip to the theater.

 

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Movie Trailer – John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017)

Hey 3.5 readers.

2014’s John Wick was such a special, under the radar surprise.  It didn’t get half the play it deserved and really grew just by word of mouth.

I was blown away when I saw it.

How to even explain it?

Very quickly, you, the viewer, are presented with a world where there’s a lot going on, but there isn’t much to bog you down in the way of detailed nuance.

Wick is a legendary hitman who goes into retirement to make his wife happy, only to come out of retirement when a puppy gifted to him by his deceased wife is killed by an epic douche.

Yeah, I know, it sounds like an unlikely plot but it works.

And there are rules. Hitmen use special coins as currency and they can stay at a special hotel where they’re supposed to be safe for the duration of their stay.  And for a certain amount of coins, hitmen can make their victims’ bodies disappear no questions asked.

In other words, there’s a lot of rules but you learn them quickly and easily.

Plus, it was great to see Keanu Reeves in a big lead role again.

Shit, that man is well-preserved.

Anyway, John Wick has been given a second chapter.  My only hope is that this franchise doesn’t get too big for its britches. Sometimes when a movie is an understated success there is a desire to go bigger in the sequel and that doesn’t always necessarily work out.

It was the quick, snappy, clear and concise writing that made the first Wick movie a success, so I hope there’s more of it this go around.

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