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






Point Break

Keanu Reeves and Patrick Swayze in Point Break

 

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

 

 

22 October

 

 

World’s first parachute jump, 1797

On this day in 1797, André-Jacque Garnerin made the first descent by frameless parachute. Ascending from the Parc Monceau in a basket attached to what looked like a large furled umbrella, itself attached to a balloon, Garnerin got to around 900 metres (3,000 feet) before unpacking the chute and severing a cord attaching him to the balloon. His descent was ungainly and his basket fell rapidly and swung wildly. He arrived back on the ground with a thump but unhurt. Garnerin was not the first person to dabble with the parachute however. There are pictures from the mid 15th century in the Codex Atlanticus of Leonardo Da Vinci which show what has since been proved to be a workable design for a parachute, and one from 1470 by an unknown person of a man suspended below what looks like a a cone-shaped contraption which looks like a parachute but which wouldn’t have broken his fall very well (the “chute” in the word parachute being the fall, and the “para” meaning protection). However Garnerin is the first recorded instance of it having been done with what we would today recognise as a parachute and so wins the prize. His daring feat caused a sensation and made his name. Garnerin was later named Official Aeronaut of France and toured England, making one ascent from Lord’s Cricket Ground and arriving, reportedly, in Chingford 15 minutes later. Considering it’s 17 miles away (27.4km) there must have been one hell of a side wind that day, or someone has embellished the facts.

 

 

Point Break (1991, dir: Kathryn Bigelow)

Here we are in 1991, when Keanu Reeves was Lovely Keanu, young, surferish, just a bit Bill & Ted still, waiting for the next phase (which came with Speed) of his dance with fame. Point Break is a key film in his career, as it was in the career of Patrick Swayze, who went from Dirty Dancing to Road House to this, and then…
It’s also a major film for Kathryn Bigelow, transitioning between the pop-smart vampire flick Near Dark, the girl-in-jeopardy cop flick Blue Steel and into limbo until The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty reminded the world how good she was. So, Point Break, a kinda dumb, kinda mad film about an FBI rookie inflitrating an LA surfer gang who pull off bank jobs in their spare time, disguised in American presidents’ masks. Heading the gang is Swayze, as Bodhi, a Zen surf master, bank robber and sky diver. Swayze is always good for some easy laughs, but he is actually a lot better than that ridiculous surf/rob/jump precis suggests. The film is best known for its shots of surfer guys riding waves, and sky divers freefalling to earth, but it’s noticeable at this distance how much energy Bigelow puts into even the most basic sequences, while Reeves and Swayze both do their best with a script that’s a full wheel of cheese. With Point Break it’s full marks to the hairstylists, the body doubles (though Swayze did a lot if not all of his own skydiving) and California for being California, dude.

 

 

Why Watch?

 

  • Keanu and Swayze in their prime
  • Who says women can’t direct action?
  • Gary Busey and John McGinley adding flavoursome support
  • A soundtrack of old-school rock including Jimi Hendrix, Love, Deep Purple

 

© Steve Morrissey 2013

 

 

Point Break – at Amazon

 

 

 

 

The Gift

Redneck Keanu Reeves in The Gift

 

 

Director Sam Raimi is an expert in genre-twisting. Back when he was making The Evil Dead he so overloaded his gore epic that it eventually became funny. With The Gift he takes on a genre even more arcane: the British whodunit. Then he does weird shit with it. First he transports the whole shebang to the Deep South to remove all traces of afternoon tea or warm beer. Then he gives us Cate Blanchett as a clairvoyant detective who can’t quite make out the identity of the murderer – well, it wouldn’t be much of film if she could, would it? And then, as a masterstroke, he takes a raft of famous faces and casts most of them against type: the normally pale-and-interesting Keanu Reeves as a redneck; Hilary Swank – who had just won an Oscar for playing a transgender teenager in Boys Don’t Cry – as the most glamorous puss in town; Greg Kinnear, best known in 2000 for playing a gay role in As Good As It Gets, he’s the red-blooded lead. And Raimi got Katie Holmes to take her clothes off in a scene recently voted “Hottest Sex Scene in  a Movie” by GQ. No one saw that coming. Otherwise it’s whodunit business as usual, with red herrings, blind avenues, bumbling policemen, epiphanies at midnight and, of course, a completely now-why-didn’t-I-see-that ending. Enjoyable as hot buttered toast.

© Steve Morrissey 2013

 

The Gift – at Amazon