Bill and Ted Face the Music: I Miss Hope (Spoiler-Free) – Amazon Review (Day 20)

This is one of the best ways to end a trilogy.

BACKGROUND

Bill S. Preston, Esq. (Alex Winter) and Ted “Theodore” Logan (Keanu Reeves) are two teenagers who dream of musical success as the band “Wyld Stallyns.” In the first film, Bill and Ted are confronted by a time-traveler named Rufus (George Carlin), who gives them a time machine so that the pair can pass their history final and keep the band together. In the process, they meet a number of historical figures, but also two princesses named Joanna and Elizabeth (Kimberley Kates/Jayma Mays and Diane Franklin/Erinn Hayes). They succeed in passing the exam and, with the help of Rufus, start the band with the princesses. Rufus reveals that Wyld Stallyns’ music will one day turn Earth into a utopia. In the second film, Chuck De Nomolos (Joss Ackland), a villain from the future, kills Bill and Ted using two evil robot copies, forcing them to confront Death (William Sadler) and go through the afterlife in order to defeat the bad robots. At the end, the pair stop De Nomolos, marry the princesses, have two kids, and perform a hit song in front of the entire world.

Yes, Death is from Ingmar Bergman’s The Seventh Seal.

SUMMARY (Spoiler-Free)

Well, turns out that the concert was not the act that changed the world into a utopia. Now, almost thirty years later, Bill and Ted are still trying to figure out the song they need to write to create the perfect future while raising their music-enthusiast daughters Billie Logan and Thea Preston (Brigette Lundy-Paine and Samara Weaving) with their wives. The duo are confronted by Kelly (Kristen Schaal), the daughter of Rufus, who comes to take them to meet the great leader, her mother (Holland Taylor), who informs the pair that they have only a few hours to perform the song or else the entire universe unravels. Bill and Ted set off to create the single greatest musical hit in the multiverse. 

Traveling through time in a phone booth? Who does that.

END SUMMARY

The category for this one was “Film World You Want To Live In,” and this was a tough one. You’d think you want to live in Middle Earth or in Star Wars, but a lot of the time those places are in constant turmoil. If you’re not a chosen one, you’re probably going to get killed. Narnia? You’d better worship Lion Neeson. Harry Potter? Fine if you’re a wizard, but if you’re a muggle somebody might mind-erase you into forgetting your kids. Also, wizard Hitlers abound. So, my finalists were originally Star Trek, because it’s a future in which all of humanity lives in a constant state of self-actualization, and Mirrormask, because the City of Light is amazing as long as you occasionally stop a thief on their way out of the town. However, on August 28th, the universe (and United Artists), gave me a sign by releasing Bill and Ted Face the Music. Not only was it a fantastic third entry to the franchise, but it was a stark reminder of the attitude that made the first two films amazing. Plus, it removed the somewhat cringeworthy-in-hindsight homophobia.

God, it was so good to see these two again.

Bill and Ted, the characters, stood out among the litany of similar characters because they were always positive. Despite the fact that Ted’s dad ridiculed the two or that they had absolutely no musical talent, they always had an optimistic outlook towards not just themselves, but the world in general. No matter how much the world threw at them, up to literally sending them to a Tim Burton-esque Hell, the two never surrendered that point of view. It often seemed connected to their valley-boy/stoner personalities and seemingly lower intelligence, but as they constantly prove to be smarter than most people expect, that doesn’t appear to be the case. In fact, it’s revealed that they seem to instinctively understand the universe better than most people, from time travel to the meaning of life. Instead of just being idiots, it’s that the two have an incredible ability to try and move past any injustice done to them. It’s honestly like a form of enlightenment summarized as “Be excellent to each other” and “Party on, dudes.” The fact that Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves were completely perfect in their portrayals was just the icing on the cake.

The “True” Bill and Ted stay positive even when seeing themselves go negative.

A big reason why this universe is so amazing, and why I’d want to live in it, is that these two form the backbone of the future. Not some great orator or a general, but two relaxed guitar dudes who just want everyone to get along and have fun. It’s somehow the most optimistic version of the future I can think of. Almost everyone is happy, the universe is peaceful, and, most amazingly, history and the arts are the most influential subjects. When we see the future of Bill and Ted, it’s not driven just by science or exploration like most sci-fi futures, but by appreciation for the humanities. In fact, when we see the flaws in the future, they’re almost all associated with people who are opposed to music or too dedicated to the sciences to appreciate anything else. 

Hence why the future has such dope fades and shades.

Also, unlike most films depicting a great future, the one presented by Bill and Ted is focused heavily on education reform. While Bill and Ted might be failing history in High School when they’re repeatedly drilled on facts, they manage to learn a great deal in a short period (less than a day) when they start interacting with the historical figures. We then see in Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey that, in the future, this is how education works, through interactive learning. Moreover, they constantly find ways to use what they do know (song lyrics and pop culture) and apply it to other situations, something that I, a person who loves to integrate pop culture with everything, really appreciate. 

The fashions did not age well. Damn you, 1990s!

But the biggest reason why I love this universe came in the third movie. So, ****SPOILER ALERT*** if you haven’t seen it. Go buy it now and come back after you’ve enjoyed it. At the end of Bill and Ted Face the Music, it’s revealed that Bill and Ted actually aren’t the key to the universe. While they do play part of the song, and amazingly, it’s their daughters that arrange the music by going through history and combining a number of styles of music into a song that can appeal to anyone. Music is one of the few things that almost every culture has created since the dawn of humanity, so it makes sense that it’s the thing that can unite humanity. Then, the film ends not with a dedication to the song, but with the simple observation that the song wasn’t the important part: it’s that everyone played it together. Everyone managed to just find one thing for one second that they could agree on, and that’s all it took. And I find that hopeful, because even though the world may seem super divided, there is always a chance that someone out there will find that one thing that can bring us together and that it probably won’t be some grand speech or some scholarly lecture. It’ll be something that everyone can appreciate. Maybe it’ll be a drunken blog post, who knows.

Also, these two nail being their daughters so damned hard. Amazing.

Overall, I loved this movie and the two that preceded it. Be excellent to each other, and party on dudes.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

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Netflix Review – Hollywood: How It Didn’t Happen

Netflix makes a series set in a fictional Hollywood in a fictional America that tries to apologize for the real ones, poorly.

SUMMARY (Spoiler-Free)

It’s 1946-1947 and WWII Veteran Jack Castello (David Corenswet) and his pregnant wife Henrietta (Maude Apatow) move to Hollywood so that Jack can try to be an actor. After they start going broke, Jack takes a job working at a gas station for Ernie West (Dylan McDermot). It turns out that the gas station is a front for a male escort service, so Jack finds himself servicing various men and women, including Avis Amberg (Patti LuPone), the wife of Ace Studios head Ace Amberg (Rob Reiner). Avis helps give Jack a leg up in his career and soon he is trying to make it for real in Hollywood. At the same time, director Raymond Ainsley (Darren Criss) is trying to get a movie made written by black screenwriter (and Jack’s fellow escort) Archie Coleman (Jeremy Pope). Raymond’s girlfriend, Camille (Laura Harrier), is also an up-and-coming actress who finds herself stuck in bit parts due to her race. Roy Fitzgerald, AKA Rock Hudson (Jake Picking), also tries to break into Hollywood with the help of agent Henry Willson (Jim Parsons), who has an in with Ace Studios executives Dick Samuels (Joe Mantello) and Ellen Kincaid (Holland Taylor). Everyone’s trying to live their dreams, even though they’re fighting each other to get to the top.

Hollywood - 1Cast
Samara Weaving plays Patti LuPone’s daughter and that’s… that’s not bad.

END SUMMARY

It would be great if this series was the kind of story that it seems like it was going to be at the beginning. People come to Hollywood, thinking they’re going to be a huge success, only for the reality to set in and everyone ends up having to compromise in order to make it. However, the show quickly, and I mean around episode 2, subverts this and instead starts to give all of these people happy endings and make their dreams come true. Moreover, it does it in a way that is completely unrealistic, usually having people just quickly sidestep racial, sexual, gender, or other social issues that would have been a major issue in 1946. This might not have been so bad if all of the characters were fictional and this was a fake version of Hollywood, but instead the series decides to incorporate various figures from the Golden Age of Hollywood and then completely ignore their actual stories. They say it’s supposed to be “rewriting” the story of Hollywood, but it doesn’t do that so much as depart entirely from the reality that the first half of the series creates. 

Hollywood - 2Hotel
Also, falling in love with your prostitute is already a movie.

What’s most annoying about this, to me, is that the series wants you to be sure that you know this is what they are doing. The focus of the plot is making a biopic film about Peg Entwhistle, an actress who gained some notoriety because she jumped to her death off of the Hollywoodland sign in 1932. However, as the series goes on, the story of what actually happened is changed until it has a completely different, happier ending than the tragic true story. The show tries to use this device to excuse its alteration of history, but ultimately, it just ends up making sure that nobody ever really has any kind of actual character development or pays any type of price for their actions. Every character is redeemed and gets a happy ending (except for the lawyer). Most of the things that would require some solid scenes to justify, like completely altering the relationship between two characters in a fundamental way, occurs almost entirely off-screen, something I’m told is common for shows made by Ryan Murphy. It feels like a cheat in all the small steps, so the big steps don’t feel earned.

Hollywood - 3Sign
Everyone’s on top of the wo- sign. 

The thing that wrecks the series is not having an alternate history where people get over racism and sexism and homophobia more easily than they did in the real world, but the fact that the show starts off by saying that all of these things DO exist, then just ignores them in favor of a happy ending. There’s no mention of the violence that often opposed progressive social movements, beyond a few theaters getting some extra security. Also, the issues are limited almost exclusively to the South, which is kind of forgetting that there are a lot of racists North of the Mason-Dixon, particularly before the 1960s. Considering that armed people are, in 2020, protesting having to stay at home and doing so with guns, I somehow find it difficult to believe that 1950 was only going to offer a few short boos to an interracial gay couple, as happens in the film (for perspective, interracial marriage was illegal in all but 7 states in 1948, and gay marriage was illegal for most of my lifespan thus far in most states, including mine). Pretending that there weren’t a lot of people who would violently back up their bigotry is forgiving a lot of sins. I’m not saying you need to focus on them, but you can either A) tell a story that isn’t grounded in reality or B) at least acknowledge that decisions have consequences, many of which are going to be negative. Also, there’s something uncomfortable in a series where almost every characters’ success starts with them having sex with someone in power.

Hollywood - 4Parsons
Also, Henry Willson rapes his clients and his total punishment is to go to AA. Seriously.

I will say that all of the performances in the show are amazing. Everyone plays the part they were told to play and, honestly, it almost makes it worthwhile, but in the end the show just couldn’t live up to the premise. I’d say if there’s anything else on your watchlist, get that out of the way first. 

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.

NOT Sponsored Review: Guns Akimbo – Scott Pilgrim Meets Battle Royale

Daniel Radcliffe is shooting people in a future that probably will be here soon if we don’t elect Mike Bloomberg.

*This review has been updated due to certain recent events*

SUMMARY (Spoiler-Free)

It’s the future, assuming that America fails to value fiscal responsibility in November. There is a large criminal organization called Skizm that runs an underground fight club where they stream death matches between criminals, crazy people, and people they’ve forced into it. Hundreds of thousands of people join Skizm’s forums to watch. 

Toilet
Yes, people watch death fights on the toilet. You know they would.

Miles Lee Harris (Daniel Radcliffe) is a programmer who works out his hero complex by trolling Skizm viewers online. When he goes on a drunken binge of harassing the murder-hungry viewers, Miles ends up getting spotted by the head of Skizm, Riktor (Ned Dennehy), who tracks Miles down. He breaks into Miles’s apartment with his henchmen Dane, Effie, and F*ckface (Mark Rowley, Racheal Ofori, Set Sjöstrand). They knock Miles unconscious and, when he wakes up, he finds that he has guns bolted to his hands, loaded with 50 bullets each. He also finds out that he is now involuntarily in a death battle with a woman named Nix (Samara Weaving), the deadliest killer in Skizm. 

Image result for guns akimbo skizm
Yes, they literally nailed the guns to his hands.

Miles somehow has to stop Nix, avoid the completely reasonable use of stop and frisk by the police, and maybe make up with his ex-girlfriend Nova (Natasha Liu Bordizzo).

END SUMMARY

First of all, Daniel Radcliffe has been working hard to leave Harry Potter behind and his performance in this film is a firm step in that direction, although I would argue that his performances in Jungle and Swiss Army Man were just as good. It’s nice to watch people try to move forward with their lives; to build on their previous success and use it as a jumping off point to greater things, like running for President after being a three term Mayor who definitely didn’t repeatedly order surveillance of random Muslim groups. Radcliffe’s portrayal of Miles is, honestly, more than I would have expected from a film like this. He’s not a deep character by any means, but he is perfectly representative of the kind of person that has spent a long life playing video games and living virtually being thrown into an insane video-game-like situation. At first, he’s terrified, but then he slowly learns to kind of dissociate and enjoy it at times. It’s horrifying in a way, but also extremely entertaining since he sells it so well.

Image result for guns akimbo skizm
He also sells the learning curve of having guns on your hands.

Similarly, a lot of the supporting characters are so much more interesting than they would normally be in this kind of action film. Samara Weaving’s Nix manages to have a surprising amount of depth beyond her drug-fueled psychopathy. Her eyes especially convey that she’s burying something besides just the bodies of the people around her. Even the henchmen Dane and Effie, despite their brief times onscreen, manage to have some interesting character quirks that speak to their personalities beyond just “henchperson.” I haven’t seen such great development per minute on film since Mayor Bloomberg’s cameo on The Good Wife. 

Image result for guns akimbo skizm
Seriously, see her in The Babysitter or Ready or Not.

Now, I am not saying that these are Oscar-worthy, but they help to keep the movie interesting despite the fact that it’s mostly just a series of fast-paced action sequences that are not, in themselves, that creative. They’re shot in a creative way, but they’re mostly just faster versions of the town scene from The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, where the good guys shoot great and the bad guys are stormtroopers. 

Image result for guns akimbo skizm
I mean, Radcliffe literally does a leaping two-gun fire for no reason.

The violence in the movie is going to be a turn-off for a lot of people. The movie presents it in the style of a first-person shooter video game, down to the bullet counter that tells the audience how many shots Miles has left. Nix randomly appears with massively upgraded and exchanged weapons, including a minigun and a rocket propelled grenade launcher. This movie clearly takes place in a world where common sense gun laws, like those of future-President Bloomberg, were never enacted. Despite the ridiculous nature of the scenes, the violence is very real at points and that becomes jarring when paired with pop music.

Image result for guns akimbo skizm
Dystopias are always signaled by a sanitation strike.

Also, the music in this film is amazing. Most of the songs match the scenes perfectly both in tone and theme, including working in the title song from the great movie Iron Eagle, although it failed to work in any songs by famed Bloomberg supporter John Mellencamp.

Overall, this was a really enjoyable film if you like action movies, particularly action comedies. It’s pretty stylized so it might turn some people off, but I liked it a lot. Almost as much as I like texting Mike to 77054.

Last, I’d just like to take a second to talk about contracts. If you, say, have a representative contact a part-time blogger with an offer to pepper in a few positive statements towards a person, maybe don’t cancel the check at the last minute just because you only won American Samoa. It’s kind of a dick move to spend $600 million on campaigning and then short someone $100 at the last minute. You paid those Fyre Festival guys to help create memes for you, but can’t give me a few bucks? You rich bastard. 

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.