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‘Bill & Ted Face the Music’ Review

A most excellent sequel, indeed!

“Bill & Ted Face the Music” is the longtime coming threequel to the original “Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure” from 1989. Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves reprise their titular roles, as the duo must write a song to save the universe and reality as we know it. Kristen Schaal, Samara Weaving, Brigette Lundy-Paine, and Holland Taylor join the cast, while Dean Parisot directs.

Long-delayed sequels rarely work out, and even less with comedies. You have to look no further than “Zoolander,” “Anchorman,” or “Finding Dory;” at worst these are abysmal follow-ups with no justification for their existence, at best they’re amusing sequels to an IP from 10+ years earlier in hopes of grabbing some nostalgia dollars. However sometimes delayed reunions can play out in a film’s favor, like “Die Hard 4,” “Scream 4” or this year’s “Bad Boys for Life” (I wasn’t a huge fan but many were). And as someone who really enjoyed my recent watch of the original 1989 film (I haven’t seen 1991’s “Bogus Journey”), I’m pleased to say “Face the Music” brings the same dumb jokes and lovable positivity to the table.

Ever since their last team-up in 1991, Keanu Reeves and Alex Winters have taken different Hollywood paths. Reeves exploded into a star, leading blockbusters like “Speed” and “The Matrix,” while Winters slowly backed away from acting to pursue documentary filmmaking. You could never tell the pair had been apart for 29 years, much less that one of them hadn’t done any serious acting in years. The two still play their guitar-shredding “excellent!” surfer bro selves, and while they can say dumb things it is never overtly off-putting; it’s meant in good nature, and feels like something a human genuinely would say. At a few points Winters’ deliver seems off (he did take acting classes to fine-tune his craft before this), but Reeves often looks like a kid in a candy store returning to this role, and taking a break from killing men with pencils in the “John Wick” franchise.

The rest of the cast is a who’s who, mixing cameos from previous cast members (like Hal Landon Jr.) with new faces (like Kid Cudi). At points it feels like an actor’s directorial pet project that their friends decide to shoot a scene for, but the film uses everyone enough (mostly).

The plot is simple yet strangely convoluted, with Bill and Ted needing time find a reality-saving song from their future selves, their wives (Erinn Hayes and Jayma Mays) looking at possible futures for themselves, and Bill and Ted’s daughters (Samara Weaving and a perfectly-cast-as-Keanu’s-daughter Brigette Lundy-Paine) have to collect famous musicians from throughout history to play the song.

For what it is, there’s not much wrong with “Bill & Ted Face the Music” if you know what you’re getting into. If you never liked of the originals then this won’t be the one to convert you, but fans (especially those who grew up on this series and are now essentially revisiting an old friend) will be pleased, and fans of silly and light humor should get a kick, too.

Critics Rating: 8/10

‘John Wick: Chapter 2’ Shoots Itself in the Foot

John_Wick_Chapter_TwoIt’s a lot to ask lighting to strike in the same bottle twice…


“John Wick: Chapter 2” is the sequel to the 2014 surprise-hit-turned-cult-classic “John Wick” and features Keanu Reeves returning to the titular role of a hitman who just can’t seem to stay retired. Common, Laurence Fishburne, Riccardo Scamarcio, Ruby Rose, John Leguizamo and Ian McShane all co-star as Chad Stahelski returns to direct.


I thoroughly enjoyed the first “John Wick,” so much in fact that it found itself on my Top 10 films of that year. It was a film that was well-framed and brilliantly-choreographed, and even if Keanu Reeves isn’t the best actor in the world he gave a performance that worked for the role. This sequel has glimpses of what made the first film so much fun, but falls victim to what plagues many follow-ups and that is a mixture of too much sameness and trying to one-up the original.


For a film where its rules have already been written and world already established, this takes a while to get moving. The first time around it was fascinating seeing how the underworld of assassins operated, with their own currency and guidelines for where and when they can “conduct business.” Here the first act is a lot of talking about debts and obligations, and if you haven’t seen the first film you will probably be lost about a lot of what’s being discussed. Last time things were simple: people stole John Wick’s car and killed his dog so he goes out for revenge; here, the motivation is less intriguing. In fact a gun isn’t even fired for the first 45 minutes of the film, which is a problem when the selling point of your movie is “come watch Keanu Reeves shoot people with a gun.”


Once the action does get going it’s fun for a while, and I felt a big smile spread across my face at Reeves getting headshot after headshot in the catacombs of Rome. However after about five minutes it becomes a bit mundane, much like putting a video game on the easiest mode. When Reeves continuously gets headshots and seems to kill 30 men without breaking much of a sweat, there’s no real risk involved and that in turn makes it hard for the audience to feel nervous for our protagonist. Reeves also faces swarms of endless enemies, much like levels of a video game, so many in fact that is begins to jump the shark (it’s unclear whether this was the filmmakers’ satirical intentions or not, but either way it’s a sin).


Director Chad Stahelski, a career stuntman, does stage his hand-to-hand fights in wide shots, allowing the actors to breathe, and for that he is to be commended. He does not implement the close-up, shaky cam punches with quick edits that nauseate so many modern filmgoers and as with the first film, Reeves and the stuntmen have choreographed action sequences that look and feel real.


The film sets itself up for a third go-around and despite being disappointed by this I will still be eager to have Reeves return to this world. Maybe if they can find a story that works and a narrative that flows easier then we can return to what made the first film so much fun but as it stands now, “John Wick: Chapter 2” marks the first cinematic disappointment of 2017.


Critics Rating: 5/10

Summit Entertainment

Summit Entertainment