Film Review: Bill & Ted Face the Music (2020)

Also known as: Bill & Ted 3 (informal title)
Release Date: August 27th, 2020 (Malaysia)
Directed by: Dean Parisot
Written by: Chris Matheson, Ed Solomon
Music by: Mark Isham
Cast: Keanu Reeves, Alex Winter, Kristen Schaal, Samara Weaving, Brigette Lundy-Paine, Anthony Carrigan, Erinn Hayes, Jayma Mays, Holland Taylor, Kid Cudi, William Sadler, Jillian Bell, Hal Landon Jr., Beck Bennett, Amy Stoch, George Carlin (posthumous cameo), Kelly Carlin, Dave Grohl (cameo), “Weird Al” Yankovic (cameo), Guillermo Rodriguez (cameo)

Dugan Entertainment, Dial 9, Hammerstone Studios, 91 Minutes

Review:

“Seriously, Uncle Ted. When did you get so excellent on Theremin? Your playing rivaled, and I’m not kidding, Clara Rockmore!” – Thea

Man, I really wanted to like this movie. I even went as far as to try and convince myself it was good and was going to pan out okay in the end. It didn’t. In fact, it pretty much killed that part of me that wants another one of these vanity, nostalgia projects to succeed.

Well, I guess Cobra Kai is just a once in a lifetime miracle. But maybe that’s because it wasn’t about vanity and it was just about bringing to life a good, fresh idea without trying to replicate what came before it.

As far as Bill & Ted stories go, this is just more of the same but it feels like a really weak attempt at taking the framework that came before it and just trying to paint-by-numbers while changing a few details.

In the case of this movie, we’re rounding up musical legends from history, while also seeing Bill & Ted travel back to hell as well as alternate futures where they confront different versions of their older selves. So there’s two adventures but it essentially takes the two adventures from the two previous movies and mashes them together in a way.

The journey to round up musicians is undertaken by Bill & Ted’s daughters, who are named after them and act too much like them that they just come across as gender swapped caricatures. Now I can’t trash their performances, as both girls were charismatic and likable but it just felt like the writers would rather lean on familiarity than trying to create characters that were more unique and didn’t just worship and emulate their dads on every level.

In regards to the first two movies, they always felt like a perfect story with a great, definitive ending. This film undoes that by retconning the ending and pretty much ignoring it and the newspaper headlines that appeared in the credits. Granted, the writers claim that they didn’t write those headlines and they were made as jokes by the people who did the credits. Still, fans, for decades, have kind of taken them as canon and why shouldn’t they?

In this film, we learn that Bill & Ted are old losers and that they’re incapable of fulfilling their destiny. What we also learn, is that it actually isn’t their destiny and, as is the trend with many modern sequels and reboots, the men are dumb idiots and its the female characters that have to come in and save the day. It’s not that I have a problem with female heroes, I just have a problem with downgrading already established heroes and brushing them aside because Hollywood feels guilty about shitting on women for years. Even though we’ve had women heroes and badasses for decades. But I digress.

This film was underwhelming and a disappointment. I wouldn’t call it intentionally “woke” but I do think it’s a product of its time and that it was influenced by the shitty, mundane art of the modern era. These characters and the fans deserved better.

At the same time, I don’t hate this film. It exists, it’s okay, not great and I don’t have to watch it again. Honestly, as a long-time fan of the film series, I’m just always going to see the first two movies as the complete story. It always was before this and that shouldn’t change just because ’80s nostalgia is in and the entertainment industry has to milk its teats until they bleed.

And of course, Rotten Tomatoes likes this.

Rating: 5.5/10
Pairs well with: its two predecessors, as well as the animated series and really awful live-action show.

Film Review: Trespass (1992)

Also known as: The Looters (working title), Die Rap-Gang (Germany)
Release Date: December 25th, 1992
Directed by: Walter Hill
Written by: Bob Gale, Robert Zemeckis
Music by: Ry Cooder
Cast: Bill Paxton, Ice-T, William Sadler, Ice Cube, Art Evans, De’voreaux White, Bruce A. Young, Glenn Plummer, Stoney Jackson, T.E. Russell, Tommy ‘Tiny’ Lister, John Toles-Bey, Byron Minns, Hal Landon Jr.

Universal Pictures, 101 Minutes

Review:

“That’s the beauty of gold. It never tarnishes. Lasts forever, too. You can twist it, pound it, even piss on it but it’s always the same gold. It was here long before we were and it’ll be here a long time after we’re gone. I bet you a lot of men have died for the gold that’s just in this one piece.” – Bradlee

Man, I used to have a really high opinion of this film circa 1993 when I copied the VHS tape after I rented it. I mean, you’ve got two of the best gangster rappers of the era along with Bill Paxton and William Sadler, who forever won my admiration after playing Death in Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey, a year or so earlier.

Plus, this was directed by Walter Hill, the guy that did The Driver, The Warriors, The Long RidersStreets of Fire48 Hrs., Another 48 Hrs. and Red Heat. Additionally, the film was produced and written by Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale, the creative force behind the Back to the Future trilogy.

But strangely, this just isn’t that great. Sure, it’s definitely okay for killing some time on a rainy day when you want an action film to help you with your low T. I don’t have low T though, my plums are solid and full of octane.

I do like this as more of a novelty thing though. You get to see both rappers named Ice come together at a time when they were both effectively breaking into movies. Ice-T killed it in New Jack City and Ice Cube gave a tremendous performance in Boyz N The Hood. You also get a solid cast of other up and coming black actors from the time: Tiny Lister, Glenn Plummer, Stoney Jackson and De’voreaux White. Also, I have always liked Art Evans, he was great in Fright Night, and this may be my favorite role he’s done.

But still, this just falls really flat.

The plot is about these Arkansas firefighters that acquire a map to a stolen religious treasure. The treasure is hidden in an abandoned factory in East St. Louis. They travel there to look for the long lost gold but quickly find themselves in over their heads as they witness a gang murder. The two firefighters then find themselves holed up in a locked room with a hostage, the head gangster’s little brother, and a homeless man. The rest of the film is mostly a standoff that plays out in a lot of different ways but ultimately, the building is set on fire and we get some solid gun play.

Trespass is certainly watchable and makes for a better than decent early ’90s action flick but there isn’t much to make you care about it. It’s not a classic, by any means. But my problem with it, is that it should have been a classic. Look at the talent in front of and behind the camera.

I do still like this film but for Walter Hill, it’s one of his weakest.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: Other early ’90s hip-hop heavy action films: Judgment NightGunmenSurviving the Game and Deep Cover.

Film Review: Pee-wee’s Big Holiday (2016)

Release Date: March 17th, 2016 (SXSW premiere)
Directed by: John Lee
Written by: Paul Reubens, Paul Rust
Music by: Mark Mothersbaugh
Cast: Paul Reubens, Joe Manganiello, Alia Shawkat, Jessica Pohly, Stephanie Beatriz, Brad William Henke, Hal Landon Jr., Diane Salinger, Patrick Egan, Tara Buck, David Arquette

Pee-wee Pictures, Apatow Productions, Netflix, 89 Minutes

Review:

It has been close to three decades since Paul Reubens has given us a Pee-wee Herman film. I went into this expecting it to be entertaining enough for a viewing but didn’t anticipate it being close to the level of greatness that was Pee-wee’s Big Adventure. But I certainly hoped it would be better than Big Top Pee-wee.

It falls somewhere in-between those two movies but very close to Big Adventure.

The film does a fantastic job of capturing the heart of the original film. Sure, it is essentially a rehash of that movie, considering that circumstances send him on a big road trip.

Reubens hasn’t lost a step, even though it has been a long time since he gave us a full length Pee-wee feature. The magic is still there and Reubens does a fine job of recreating the spirit of the character and the oddness that is Pee-wee’s world.

He is accompanied by Joe Manganiello, who plays himself. Manganiello is stupendous though in this goofy comedy and he brings a level of coolness to the picture and to Pee-wee’s life.

It is also a film that showcases friendship and does a fine job of it, considering it plays out in such a bizarre fashion.

But what is Pee-wee Herman, if not bizarre?

It’s definitely a movie for Pee-wee fans and probably won’t be that entertaining to newcomers to Reubens’ wacky world. But if Pee-wee is your thing, this film certainly isn’t a disappointment and lives up to whatever expectations it may have.

It also features probably the most elaborate Rube Goldberg machine sequence in any Pee-wee adventure.

Rating: 8/10

Film Review: The ‘Bill & Ted’ Film Series (1989-1991)

The Bill & Ted series was pretty enjoyable when I was a preteen. I’ve owned the box set for several years, since it first came out on DVD. I rewatch through the two films every couple of years or so and hope that the rumors of a third film, which has supposedly been written, are more fact than fiction.

In the meantime, I wanted to revisit this series again, in an effort to review them and because they are still enjoyable popcorn movies to kill some time over a weekend.

Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1989):

Release Date: February 17th, 1989
Directed by: Stephen Herek
Written by: Chris Matheson, Ed Solomon
Music by: David Newman
Cast: Keanu Reeves, Alex Winter, George Carlin, Terry Camilleri, Dan Shor, Tony Steedman, Rod Loomis, Al Leong, Jane Wiedlin, Robert V. Barron, Clifford David, Hal Landon Jr., Bernie Casey, Amy Stock-Poynton, J. Patrick McNamara, Frazier Bain, John Karlsen, Diane Franklin, Kimberley LaBelle

Interscope Communications, Nelson Entertainment, Orion Pictures, De Laurentiis Entertainment Group, 89 Minutes

Review:

“Strange things are afoot at the Circle-K.” – Ted

The first film in the series follows Bill (Alex Winter) and Ted (Keanu Reeves), as they have to ace a history report in order to not flunk out of school. If they flunk out, Ted gets shipped off to military school in Alaska and their band The Wyld Stallyns will never exist and bring peace and harmony to the universe. In order to make sure that they fulfill their destiny, Rufus (played by comic legend George Carlin) shows up in a time traveling phone booth – sending them off on their journey.

Taking a few pages from Doctor Who and Back to the Future, both big franchises at the time, these films add in some good old school rock and roll and two dimwitted heroes who are lovable characters with big hearts and a thirst for fun and adventure.

Excellent Adventure is far from a perfect film. It has its flaws and most of my fondness for it is out of nostalgia but it is still entertaining and funny.

As Bill and Ted traverse through time and abduct several noteworthy historical figures, the adventure unfolds and seeing these figures interact with one another, as well as the heroes, is pretty hilarious.

The special effects are good for the time, the plot doesn’t really matter other than creating a cool scenario and despite its wackiness and complete implausibility, the film just works.

Additionally, the sequence where the historical figures discover the mall is one of the best moments in film from the 1980s. Napoleon taking over the water park is also a classic moment that still plays great today.

The end of the film is their over the top history report and it is pretty friggin’ bad ass. It plays more like a rock concert than a report and helps build the mythos of these two characters becoming rock and roll legends.

Ultimately, this film is exciting, it encompasses many of the things that were awesome about entertainment in the 80s and it has George Carlin in it.

And who doesn’t want to replay the scene where Genghis Khan trashes Oshman’s Sporting Goods again and again?

Rating: 8.5/10

Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey (1991):

Release Date: July 19th, 1989
Directed by: Pete Hewitt
Written by: Chris Matheson, Ed Solomon
Music by: David Newman
Cast: Keanu Reeves, Alex Winter, George Carlin, William Sadler, Joss Ackland, Pam Grier, Annette Azcuy, Sarah Trigger, Hal Landon Jr., Amy Stock-Poynton

Interscope Communications, Nelson Entertainment, Orion Pictures, 93 Minutes

Review:

“A hit. You have sank my battleship!” – Grim Reaper

Bogus Journey picks up a few years after Excellent Adventure. At this point, Bill and Ted haven’t yet fulfilled their destiny of bringing peace and harmony to the universe.

This film also introduces a villain in De Nomolos and his evil Bill and Ted robots who are sent to kill the real Bill and Ted. The robots succeed and Bill and Ted’s “Bogus Journey” is their trip through Hell and then Heaven, as they are essentially resurrected and gain allies in the Grim Reaper (William Sadler) and a pair of great alien scientists called “Station”.

This film is even more over the top than its predecessor and that works fine but overall, the film isn’t as good. It is still enjoyable and adds more to the building tale of these two future legends but it is missing some of the magic that made the first film work as well as it did.

It is a much darker film and maybe the tone distracts from the lighthearted heroes. Bill and Ted are still Bill and Ted and the Grim Reaper is a fantastic character but the film just feels off.

There just isn’t anything as memorable as what was in the first film. Granted, the sequence where Bill and Ted play the Grim Reaper in several board games in an effort to escape Hell is pretty damned good.

The film ends positively and it shows Bill and Ted on the cusp of greatness. But it leaves you wanting more, as you want to see the next step in their progression. Still, twenty-six years later, we haven’t gotten a sequel.

Well, according to Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves, it is finally on its way.

Rating: 7.5/10