Bill & Ted Face the Music

Bill and Ted in the teleporter


Quick show of hands, did anyone actually ask for Bill & Ted Face the Music? Thought not, though here it is, around 30 years on from Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure and their Bogus Journey, back with its original stars, Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter, a good comedy director at the helm (Dean Parisot of Galaxy Quest fame), and with two talented draftees in there to provide new blood.

In fact Reeves expressed an interest in a new instalment as long ago as 2005. Original writers Chris Matheson and Ed Solomon climbed back on board soon after, and the project was ready to go for about ten years – the studio wasn’t convinced a “cult” movie would put the requisite bums on seats – but it took until 2019 for shooting to get underway.

As near as makes no difference it follows the journey structure of the other films, with the two now-middle-aged members of Wild Stallyns off on a quest to write a song that will save the world. And, realising they haven’t a hope of actually doing that, Bill (Winter) and Ted (Reeves) journey into the future where, they’ve been told, they have already written that song. All they have to do is find the even older versions of themselves, get the song and bingo.

Thea and Billie
Thea and Billie



Into the teleporting telephone kiosk they go, pursued by a murderous robot sent by The Great Leader (Holland Taylor), with their daughters close behind, who are on their own quest to assemble the perfect rock band, which will involve recruiting Jimi Hendrix, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Louis Armstrong, among others.

And following them, in an obvious last place, come the wives (Jayma Mays, Erin Hayes). Hey, this movie’s from a different era, everybody.

What an incredibly hit and miss film this is, long on enthusiasm short on actual big laughs, though the song early on at the latest wedding of Missy (Amy Stoch) – who has previously been married to both Bill and Ted’s fathers – is a blindingly funny car crash of mixed sources. Theremin, bagpipes, overtone singing and a trumpet being just part of it.

The dudes look good for their years, Keanu in particular looking about as limber as any 55-year-old is ever going to look – the John Wick 3 training standing him in good stead here – while “the wives” function exactly like the wives of Laurel and Hardy. They’re a pair of eyerolling harpies with a low opinion of their oafish husbands.

The daughters are a different thing altogether, Brigette Lundy-Paine and Samara Weaving as Thea (Bill’s daughter) and Billie (Ted’s) delivering exactly the jolt of electricity that they’ve been hired for. They are, in essence, Bill and Ted Mark II – their love of music, their use of dudespeak, the over-elaborate speech patterns, the relentless nodding while the other is speaking, the turning of the whole body when a simple twist of the head would have sufficed. Chips off the old block.

And as the film progresses, the dudesses, Billie and Thea, come to the fore as it becomes increasingly obvious that Bill and Ted’s encounters with their future selves are not what this film needs. What’s necessary is encounters with their past selves, when they were striplings. Still, Billie and Thea help plug that gap. They are the film’s killer app.

The Grim Reaper, in the shape of William Sadler, makes a return appearance as Bill and Ted journey through realms high and low – can you say Death also looks good for his age? – and Reeves and Winter have a bit of fun dressing up as alternative future versions of themselves.

It’s a lively film though not a particularly fresh one, best seen as the filmic version of one of those dad-rock bands doing a greatest hits tour. Some of it now looks quaint – a telephone box as a teleporter? Rock music saving the world? Rock music even as a thing? But it’s fitfully funny, relentlessly good natured and at 91 minutes doesn’t outstay its welcome. It doesn’t dare.




Bill & Ted Face the Music – Watch it/buy it at Amazon

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© Steve Morrissey 2021






Downloaded

Napster founders Shawn Fanning and Shaun Parker with Alex Winter

 

A movie for every day of the year – a good one

 

 

7 December

 

 

Record Industry Association of America files lawsuit against Napster, 1999

This is the day in 1999 that the self-styled “music industry” started its fightback. The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) filed a lawsuit against Napster intended to prevent it from distributing music over its peer-to-peer file-sharing service. At the time the vast bulk of people didn’t know what peer-to-peer file-sharing was but the publicity that the case caused meant that many more of them soon did – thanks to helpful explanatory articles in newspapers etc. The suit came on top of previous attempts by individuals – notably members of Metallica and rapper/producer Dr Dre – to force Napster to stop sharing copyright music over its servers, legal processes which were still in the works when the RIAA went in with the big guns. Short-term, publicity around the lawsuit pumped Napster’s daily numbers right up – it had 80 million registered users at its peak – but on 5 March 2001 an injunction won by the RIAA forced Napster to stop facilitating the movement of copyrighted music across its network. In July 2001, Napster shut down its free file-sharing service and set about developing a pay model, partly as a means to paying off the settlement fees which the record companies had won in the court case. By spring 2002 Napster reckoned it had a business model and the technology that would work, all it needed was licensing agreements from the record companies. But the record companies, still living within an analogue mindset, refused to play ball. Napster went bust. File-sharing continued.

 

 

 

Downloaded (2013, dir: Alex Winter)

Alex Winter is a regular in the “whatever happened to?” game. The other guy in the Bill and Ted films, the one who wasn’t Keanu Reeves, Winter went off and quietly started building a reputation as a director, in TV mostly. Downloaded is his first film, a documentary about the digital revolution, file-sharing and Napster in particular. Telling the story from the very beginning, in 1998, Winter details Napster’s big idea (“A global internet community, with access to every music file on every hard drive, everywhere”), tells us why it was important (because it created the concept of large-scale internet communities) and then gets to the people responsible (Sean Parker and Shawn Fanning, interviewed in a fresh-faced 1999 and in sleek-but-still-hip 2013) and the people affected (eg a “fuck you, Napster” Dr Dre). “Like it or not Napster has changed everything, and the music companies are sadly behind the curve,” as one music biz insider puts it. Quite how blind-siding Napster and its file-sharing technology was is expressed by Ali Aydar, Napster’s senior director of technology – “I was, like, nobody’s gonna open up their hard drive like that… nobody’s gonna allow their bandwidth to be used… no one is gonna share an MP3 – that was my quote. Boy was I wrong. I was so wrong.” Or as Parker puts it in a nutshell “suddenly you could be connected to everyone.” Undeniably pro file-sharing, Winter’s doc manages to find similarly pro voices in the unlikeliest corners. Chris Blackwell, of Island Records, points out that record companies had done very nicely thank you from changing technology in the past – as 78s became 33s, and vinyl became CD, companies had sold the same old music all over again to people keen to go with the new formats. And various biz insiders point out that record companies had started out as hardware manufacturers (EMI and HMV both originally produced phonographs) but that they had taken their eye off the technological ball. “It came back and hit them with a wallop,” as Sire Records’ Seymour Stine says. Winter’s doc isn’t without its odd unnecessary moment – the post-Napster stuff – but his access to the key players is impressive, his use of graphics to explain the techie stuff is neat and yes, it might be history from the viewpoint of the winner, but the file-sharing phenomenon was/is a cultural game-changer and it’s about time someone documented it.

 

 

Why Watch?

 

  • Great access, from both sides of the debate
  • Captures the euphoria of early internet days
  • An ABC of how this stuff works – for those who don’t know
  • Technical details for those who do know

 

© Steve Morrissey 2013

 

 

Dowloaded – at Amazon