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Justin Hall Movie reviews
Justin Hall

bill and ted
Bill and Ted Face the Music
It's been almost 30 years since Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter were the lovable airheads Bill and Ted and the dynamic duo have been reunited for this third entry, Bill and Ted Face the Music.

Normally, waiting for a long periodnof time between sequels can spell doom for a franchise, but believe it or not, this is a sequel that's not quite excellent, but far from bogus. Whoa.

Reeves and Winter return as the titular characters who by this point are middle-aged dudes who are now married and have daughters (Samara Weaving and Brigette Lundy-Payne).

They didn't fulfill their destiny by writing the song that would unite the world and instead they have to deal with mundane things such as getting real jobs amd and attending couple's therapy with their wives (Erinn Hayes and Jayma Mays).

They're visited by a messenger from the future named Kelly (Kristen Schaal), the daughter of Rufus (George Carlin) who tells them they have 77 minutes to write the song that will unite the world or reality will cease to exist. No pressure.

The duo time travels to various years to meet their future selves in order to steal the song and bring ot back to the present. Some of these encounters are funny such as when they meet themselves in prison and others can be hit-or-miss. A British Bill and Ted ends with a cameo by a rock star of the last 25 years.

Bill and Ted's daughters decide to get in on the action after being visited by Kelly and they decide to go time traveling by collecting some of music's most influential figures to help out. Everyone from Jimi Hendrix to Louis Armstrong to Mozart are along for the ride.

Sure it's relentlessly silly and the time-travel mumbo jumbo is a bit of a traffic jam at times, but Reeves and Winter infuse their roles with earnestness and self-awareness that they become impossible to hate.

Plus, Weaving and Lundy-Paineare welcome additions and the plot does take some unexpected directions even if we can still see it coming from a mile away.

Despite its goofiness, Face the Music also stresses the importance of camaraderie and passion for music even in the most dire circumstances.

In a year that's been dominated by COVID-19,  protests, rioting, and an inevitability cutthroat presidential election, it's nice to see a movie that is unapologetically silly yet possesses a sweet optimism at its core.

Again, it's not excellent, but not bogus. You can party on with this one.

Grade: B

(Rated PG-13 for some language.)

new mutants
The New Mutants
After dealing with endless reshoots and delays, Marvel's most horrifying X-Men are finally delivered out of development hell and the result makes you wish they had stayed there.

This latest chapter in the X-Men universe begins with a Native American teen named Dani (Blu Hunt), a mutant with the ability to tap into people's fears. She's sent to an institution for Mutants which is headed by a doctor (Alice Braga).

The doc introduces her to four other Mutants with their own unique powers: Maisie Williams plays a girl who can turn into a werewolf (Sorry. Hugh Jackman does not show up in a cameo as a relative). Anya Taylor-Joy as a Russian girl with teleportation powers who has immediate animosity towards  the newcomer. Charlie Heaton plays a boy who is impenetrable to harm while in the air and Henry Zaga is a Mutant from Brazil that can manipulate solar energy.

They refuse to cooperate with each other due to their differences, but the doc insists that they put that aside if they want to break free. I know what you're thinking: They're Mutants. Why not just pool together their abilities and break free? Well, that would work, but as an old standby in these movies, the institution is loaded with trap after trap to keep the kids there.

Even at a brisk runtime of 94 minutes, the story is dull and there is no real sense of jeopardy because we can certain plot developments coming from a mile away. The characters are mostly unoriginal and one-note, except for Taylor-Joy who tries to brighten things up with a heavy dose of hammy acting. The cinematography is murky and the tone is generally uneven.

The X-Men franchise has had an up and down road, but between this and Dark Phoenix, it makes us wish the filmmakers had devoted more time to crafting a good script, developing their characters more, and creating special effects that don't have a "been there, done that" feel.

It's been said that mutation in the X-Men is the key to their evolution. Well, this entry takes things leaps and bounds backwards.

Grade: C-

(Rated PG-13 for violent content, some disturbing/bloody images, some strong language, thematic elements and suggestive material.)

unhinged
Unhinged

Unhinged is appropriately named for two reasons: 1) The times we're living in as the movie makes a social commentary on mental instability and 2) Russell Crowe's performance is just like the title.

Crowe is beefed up here as a man who already suffers from mental illness after being divorced. He lives in New Orleans and one day in traffic, he sits in front of a red light and doesn't move his truck.

Later Cooper confronts Rachel on the highway and demands that she accept his apology which she refuses. After that, it's a cat-and-mouse game of Cooper relentlessly pursuing Rachel in order to make sure she knows what a bad day is like.

Not only does Cooper make her life a living hell, but he also disrupts virtually everyone else in her life. Everyone from her son (Gabriel Bateman) to her boss to her divorce laywer are not safe especially the latter who may end up on the menu at a diner where Cooper meets him.

I've already said that Unhinged is appropriately named for the aforementioned reasons, but it's also a movie that is equal parts predictable, preposterous, and borderline amusing.

Crowe is clearly giving his all as the bad guy and he's actually a menacing presence even if there are scenes that take him into camp territory.

The movie does try to work in the social commentary, but its effectiveness is disjointed in the midst of a movie that changes tonally into a slasher thriller.

Plus, the movie does a tried-and-true cliche of certain objects that a character might need and you can bet before the end, thay object will come in handy later.

Unhinged is really more of a guilty pleasure than a solid suspense thriller and on that level, I'm glad I saw it. Kinda.

Grade: B-

(Rated R for strong violent content and language throughout.)

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