Reviews

Film Review: Bill & Ted Face The Music (2020, Dean Parisot)

Posted on by Paul in Movies | Leave a comment

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There’s a moment in Bill & Ted Face The Music where Bill S. Preston, Esq. and Ted “Theodore” Logan are attempting to reconcile with their former Wyld Stallyns bandmate Death (played perfectly by the great William Sadler) and are reminded by their daughters to “be sweet.”

It’s a nice moment, but I also imagine that phrase could have doubled as the mission statement for the entire film – be sweet. Bill & Ted Face The Music is a film that’s full of sweetness and heart and soul. It’s a love letter to the fans of the film series that incorporates everything that was great about the first two films while building on that legacy by adding new themes and elements into the mix.

Nearly three decades later, Bill & Ted Face The Music sees Keanu Reeves, Alex Winter, and the original writing team of Chris Matheson and Ed Solomon revisiting these beloved characters. Now a couple of middle-aged dads who still haven’t quite achieved what they were supposed to, Bill and Ted are given one final chance to write the song that will unite all of humanity. As we follow the duo on a journey through time to save reality as we know it, the film touches on themes of family, of trying to live up to practically impossible expectations, and on the legacy which we ultimately leave behind. And throughout it all, it’s fun, funny, and yes, quite sweet.

One element of the film that adds a lot of that sweetness is the addition of Bill and Ted’s now grown up daughters, Billie and Thea, who go on their own excellent journey through time, space, and the afterlife to assemble a killer band who can help them to create that one great song. Brigette Lundy-Paine and Samara Weaving each give memorable performances that recall much of Reeves and Winter from the first two films while also bringing their own touches to the characters.

Growing up, the Bill & Ted movies meant a lot to me as they surely did for many others and Face The Music is a solid addition to that legacy. The duo’s core values (“Be excellent to each other”) still hold up today and the idea that music can save the world and be the basis for a future utopia is certainly one that I can get behind, even (or maybe especially) at a time when live music is something we will not be seeing again anytime too soon.

A film where a key plot point is a song that can bring all of humanity together and save us all may have had me missing live music a bit, but it also gave me some hope for that time, whenever it may be, that we can get together again with others to see live music, or watch a film, or whatever else it is that brings us joy. Until that time though, we can at least still heed the words of Wyld Stallyns: Be excellent to each other. And party on, dudes! Just make sure you practice social distancing while doing the latter. And wear a mask.

Locked-down SXSW Review: Homecoming -The Journey of Cardboard (Yuko Shiomaki/Anna Thorson Mayer)

Posted on by Gary in Everything, Reviews, South By Southwest | Leave a comment

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With the cancellation of this year’s SXSW, many of the films scheduled to screen there were suddenly left without a platform. In lieu of a proper screening, several of the short films officially selected for the 2020 SXSW Episodic Pilot Competition have been made available to screen via Vimeo. Below we review one of those films, Homecoming – The Journey of Cardboard.

Unlike the Mona Lisa or those fucking shiny balloon dogs that look like the Bean multiplied itself while rollicking in its daughters’ metallic-colored piss, your overlooked life is just as important in the daily struggle of our planet. So, where you came from could theoretically matter. And if a lack of narration from Henry Louis Gates Jr. over your ancestry is the high-water mark of failure in your life, consider the trillions upon trillions of other inanimate objects that are similarly un-celebrated. Yes. You are as useless as I myself, and will be sorted right below CARDBOARD, of all things, in the grand Excel spreadsheet listed by decreasing importance.

Except that cardboard, unlike you and I, has a newfound voice. To honor the origins of something as profound as a grapefruit carton, a Japanese reclaimed-cardboard wallet maker tries to bring his material back to its Floridian hometown for a “blessing” of sorts. Replace Dr. Gates’ baritone with that of a contemporary graphics artist dosed with a penchant for ultra-specificity, and the transformation from Finding Your Roots to a very Japanese documentary short is complete. Fuyuki Shimazu’s celebration of the mundane is not unexpected in the age of sub-sub-sub-reddits. Enveloped by oceans of potential knowledge, we are almost encouraged to diversify and become passionately focused in one thing and make irrelevant everyone else’s interests. Only, when you dig further, you find that “someone else is ALSO and ALREADY interested in this shit!?” So we reach for combinatorial esotericism: “Only I am expert on the turquoise crane hawk in the cliffs north of Tonga AND the blue hawking crane of Eastern Seychelles”. This isn’t, of course, a commentary on this short, which is warm and reverent.

But on a facile reflection: should he switch to making cardboard face masks and ventilator bellows, will it make us appreciate the world even more? When the universal units of gravitas have changed, you quickly find everything soaring or crashing on a tornado of an Excel list, which is an indication of how important the list really was in the first place.

Review: Bruce Dickinson, November 23, Queen Elizabeth Theatre

Posted on by Paul in Reviews | Leave a comment

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Shortly before the start of Bruce Dickinson‘s one man show at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre on Saturday night, I witnessed a man in the crowd who appeared to be putting earplugs in … before a spoken word show. It seemed a bit odd.

Granted, I don’t know what this guy’s situation was – maybe he’s got very sensitive ears (the pre-show music – all Maiden of course – being pumped through the speakers was perhaps a bit loud) or maybe those were actually earbuds and he was listening to the game or something. Still, it was a little unusual. I know it’s Bruce Dickinson, but what the hell was this guy expecting?

Truth be told, other than the general idea that Dickinson would be talking about his life and career over the years, I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect either, but I had to assume that he’d have some pretty good tales to tell. After all, as far as legendary metal vocalists go, they don’t get much more legendary than the Iron Maiden frontman, so surely he’s got some stories. And over the course of the evening, Dickinson indeed regaled the crowd with stories from throughout his career, from his beginnings in his hometown of Worksop (which to his surprise, at least someone in attendance had heard of) to his time at an English public school (actually not public at all, but a private school – oh, those wacky English) to his early days in the music business as singer for Samson and onto his days as frontman for Iron Maiden and his other life as an airline pilot. So yeah, dude’s got a lot of stories. And he tells them well.

Memorable moments from throughout the night included his accounts of his time at that English public school, wherein he developed a healthy opposition to authority and was eventually expelled (“I pissed in the headmaster’s dinner. And he ate it.”) as well as the stories of his time singing in Samson and their general lack of experience when it came to the business side of the music industry. Also amusing was a segment of the show wherein he critiqued some of his past sartorial choices as he shared some slides of past stage wear with the audience.

Overall, Dickinson proved himself to be a very animated, enthusiastic storyteller. Funny too, albeit a bit corny at times. But I suppose Bruce Dickinson’s allowed to be a little corny if he wants. He’s earned it.

Hot Docs Review: American Factory (Steven Bognar, Julia Reichert, 2019)

Posted on by Paul in Hot Docs | Leave a comment

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A failing automobile factory is on the verge of going under, only to be saved by an Asian investor, after which culture clashes, of course, ensue. If this sounds like the plot of the 1987 Ron Howard directed film Gung Ho, you’re not wrong, but it’s also the story of American Factory. Except in this case, there’s no plucky, wisecracking lead character played by Michael Keaton coming in to ultimately save the day. No, real life is more complicated than that.

American Factory tells the story of a Dayton, Ohio based GM plant that is converted into a factory for Chinese owned company Fuyao Glass, thus saving many jobs. Of course the story doesn’t end there. Aside from the obvious cultural clashes, the real issues begin once it becomes clear that the differences run a little deeper, with problems specifically arising once the workers decide that they need to unionize, something to which management is completely opposed.

Featuring in depth, honest interviews with those from both sides of this conflict, the film presents a fascinating look at the issue. A clash between labour and management is not a new story by any means, but as told by directors Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert in American Factory, it’s a very compelling one.

Screenings:
Sat, May 4, 6:00 PM @ Isabel Bader Theatre
Sun, May 5, 4:15 PM @ TIFF Bell Lightbox 1

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