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X (2022) Review

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X

Time: 105 Minutes
Age Rating: 79a0443c-3460-4500-922d-308b655c1350[1] Graphic violence, horror, drug use & sex scenes
Cast:
Mia Goth as Maxine Minx/Pearl
Jenna Ortega as Lorraine
Brittany Snow as Bobby-Lynne
Kid Cudi as Jackson Hole
Martin Henderson as Wayne Gilroy
Owen Campbell as RJ Nichols
Director: Ti West

A group of actors sets out to make an adult film in rural Texas under the noses of their reclusive hosts, but when the elderly couple catches their young guests in the act, the cast finds themselves in a desperate fight for their lives.

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I had been hearing of X leading up to its release. I wasn’t familiar with director Ti West’s past work, I only knew that it was an A24 horror movie starring Mia Goth. I didn’t watch the trailer, but it looks reminiscent of the low budget horror slashers from 5 decades ago, so it intrigued me. Overall, I was quite satisfied with the movie and it delivers on what it set out to do.

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X is definitely a slow burn with a lot of build up over the course of the film, in fact it is quite a while before the first kill happens. However, I thought that it worked for the movie, and it never really dragged across its hour and 45 minute runtime. It definitely has a lot of love for the slasher movies of the 70s like Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and pays tribute to them. The tone was appropriate for this story, you take it seriously enough. but at the same time it has its fair amount of humour and self-awareness that makes it fun to watch. There’s a lot happening thematically, transgressive art vs puritanical values, repression, sex and beauty. It’s also a surprisingly sex positive movie, especially considering that this is a slasher film with its setup being the main group of characters making a pornographic movie. In terms of issues, I wished that more things happened at the ending, it felt a bit too abrupt in the last minutes of the film. Also, for all the ideas and themes that it touches upon, X doesn’t seem to do much with them by the end. In that sense, I wish it either committed more and delved deeper into those topics, or focus more on the grindhouse homage.

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The acting from everyone is great. Mia Goth stands out among the cast in two stellar performances, one of them playing a completely unrecognisable character. Other actors including Jenna Ortega, Kid Cudi, and Brittany Snow also deliver, the main cast works together incredibly well with natural chemistry.

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This is the first movie I’ve seen from director Ti West, and now I really want to check out his other work. As I said before, X clearly has a lot of love for the grindhouse horror subgenre, and it embraces its silly and bloody nature. It nails the 70s aesthetic and style, and absolutely nails the eerie atmosphere. At the same time, it’s not stuck being only a grindhouse homage and manages to be its own thing. The cinematography is great and takes advantage of its locations and sets, the use of zooms were particularly effective in building up the tension. It is less aiming for jump scares and is more intense and suspenseful with the feeling of lingering and growing dread. There are some great practical effects with top notch sloppy gore with the creative kills (again very grindhouse-esque). The makeup is also excellent, especially with one particular character. The editing also does a lot for the movie, especially with the split screens and harsh cuts. The score from Tyler Bates and Chelsea Wolfe also added a lot to the feeling of the movie.

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X is a solid, suspenseful, gory and darkly funny horror movie and homage to the slashers of the 70s. It’s stylishly directed by Ti West and has great performances from the cast. If you like slasher movies, particularly those leaning towards the grindhouse side, I definitely think that you’ll really like it. Apparently, West has already films a prequel to X and is currently working on a sequel, and after seeing the first movie I’m already interested in them.

Bill and Ted Face the Music (2020) Review

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Bill & Ted Face the Music

Time: 91 Minutes
Age Rating: 120px-OFLCN_-_PG.svg[1]  Violence & coarse language
Cast:
Keanu Reeves as Theodore “Ted” Logan
Alex Winter as William S. “Bill” Preston, Esq.
Kristen Schaal as Kelly
Samara Weaving as Theadora “Thea” Preston
Brigette Lundy-Paine as Wilhelmina “Billie” Logan
William Sadler as the Grim Reaper
Anthony Carrigan as Dennis Caleb McCoy
Erinn Hayes as Princess Elizabeth Logan
Jayma Mays as Princess Joanna Preston
Hal Landon Jr. as Captain Jonathan Logan
Beck Bennett as Officer Deacon Logan
Kid Cudi as himself
Amy Stoch as Missy
Holland Taylor as The Great Leader
Jillian Bell as Dr. Taylor Wood
Director: Dean Parisot

The ruler of the future tells best friends Bill (Alex Winter) and Ted (Keanu Reeves) they must compose a new song to save life as we know it. But instead of writing it, they decide to travel through time to steal it from their older selves. Meanwhile, their young daughters devise their own musical scheme to help their fathers bring harmony to the universe.

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I watched the first two Bill and Ted movies (and rewatched in the case of Excellent Adventure) recently, they were quite enjoyable if flawed movies from the 80s and 90s. With the third instalment released in 2020, I was wondering about how it would be. With an almost 30 year gap since the previous movie, I had no idea how it would turn out, especially as those movies felt like they were very much of their time. Bill & Ted Face of the Music actually turned out to be pretty good, and better than I was expecting.

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There is a worry about reboots (even though it’s the third instalment here), especially with franchises where the last movies came out a long time ago. You’d expect that it would just retread familiar territory and be a cash grab ultimately. However it captures the charm of Bill & Ted, while providing enough stuff to make it fresh and unique on it’s own right instead of just rehashing the first two movies. It not only delivers on the original’s heart and spirit, it also pushes the story further, more than I expected it. It keeps the DNA of the original two movies intact but have an incredibly heartfelt story to go with it. Like with the past movies, they are at the right length at 90 minutes, is very fast paced, and it just really works well. It’s also got quite a lot of good humour that works quite well.

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Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves reprise their iconic roles of Bill & Ted, and even after nearly 30 years later, they still have the charisma and chemistry which made the characters so great in the first place. They aren’t the only main characters in this movie, there’s also Samara Weaving and Bridgette Lundy-Paine who play Bill & Ted’s daughters. Their dynamic was also great and they embody that same spirit of their fathers, and it’s great when they are all together onscreen. William Sadler return as Death from Bogus Journey, once again he stole every scene he was in. The rest of the cast are good too, Anthony Carrigan was also a standout among the supporting cast.

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Bill & Ted Face the Music is directed by Dean Parisot, the direction is serviceable and is good enough for the movie to work. The visual effects in the first two movies weren’t that good, and that’s mostly because of it being the 80s and 90s so they can still be enjoyable in a cheesy sort of way. While the effects here are a little better, they are a bit average, and the colour palette overall is rather drab and boring at times. The composed music is also rather standard blockbuster music, which pales in contrast to the previous soundtracks.

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Bill & Ted Face the Music was quite enjoyable for me, capturing the charm and fun of the first two movies while feeling updated for today in all the right ways. If you didn’t like any of the other Bill & Ted movies, it’s not worth checking out. However as someone who does like the movies, I was pleasantly surprised by it, it really was a fitting conclusion to this trilogy. If you haven’t watched any of the Bill & Ted movies, I at least recommend giving Excellent Adventure a viewing, it’s a classic for a reason.