Movies

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.

SXSW Film Review: Snatchers (Stephen Cedars, Benji Kleiman, 2019)

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

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You can never have too much blood said Snatchers directors Stephen Cedars and Benji Kleiman with a glinting of the eyes and a rolling of the sleeves. While that is a solid slogan for the Red Cross, truth be told, having buckets of the red stuff plastering the walls doesn’t otherwise give you a good slasher film. What does is the concomitant ritual sacrifice and lampooning of a social trope that we have all agreed should die over and over again until the rewind button breaks. Enter horny teenagers who can’t wait to have sex. Where Snatchers diverges from other direct-to-VHS scripts is its excellent pacing, acting, and imaginative (to put it mildly) set up.

The story, which isn’t the star here, goes like: teenagers f$&@, girl gets pregnant, guy runs away, mom freaks out, cool kids fold and wilt while nerdy Magic-playing ex-BFF steps up. Also Mayan Aliens wreck everyone. This is basically Juno with heartfelt character growth ripped out and transplanted with headless corpses and dismembered limbs.

It is of course the aliens from Mexico (space aliens, that is) that are the cornerstone of every joke here. From vag-cannon to blender/mulcher, stop-signs to cat flights, the directors pay tribute to touchstones like Evil Dead and Shaun of the Dead but create fresh and hilarious scenes of the their own. They rightly chose to do everything with animatronics – not that the head chomping aliens were extremely well built, but as the actors testified, the physicality lends itself to more believable acting than green screen and tennis ball. The best part is that you barely get any breathers over the course of the film. One can clearly see what six years of script and screen-writing does to economize even a wild slasher run. Sure, it is not a slugfest a la Marx Brothers where the next joke hit just as hard as your brain was still reeling from the last comedic concussion. But aside from a momentary lull in the fridge, the film unfurls in a highly efficient but natural pace. Basically, go watch this if you are at all interested in a good late night slasher. Or a daylight slasher. Cuz aliens don’t wait until it’s dark.

Film Review: Slave To The Grind (2018, Doug Brown)

Posted on by Paul in Movies | Leave a comment

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Grindcore. If you’re a fan, you understand the music’s visceral appeal – everything as fast and heavy as possible, or as grind masters Brutal Truth once put it in the intro to 1997’s Sounds Of The Animal Kingdom, “Still not loud enough, still not fast enough.” If you’re not a fan, you might be curious what the hell all this noise is about and what exactly the appeal is. If you fall into either category, Toronto filmmaker Doug Brown’s Slave To The Grind is definitely worth your time.

Taken from footage shot over the last few years, Slave To The Grind is an entertaining and informative look at the origins and development of grindcore (a fusion of metal and punk) from the early days of originators Napalm Death and Repulsion to the beginnings of subgenres like goregrind and mincecore and on into the current state of grind.

The film features many notable figures in the genre, with the likes of Repulsion’s Scott Carlson, Earache Records founder Digby Pearson, Mel Mongeon and Topon Das of Fuck The Facts and the members of Agathocles all making memorable appearances throughout. It’s often the drummers though who make for the most entertaining interviewees, with Brutal Truth/Total Fucking Destruction’s Rich Hoak, AxCx’s Tim Morse, Terrorizer/Morbid Angel drummer Pete Sandoval and Dave Witte (who’s played in too many bands to mention here) coming up with some of the more memorable moments – not surprising when you consider the importance of drums and the blastbeat in particular to grindcore. And though he’s not interviewed in the film, a special mention must go out to Repulsion drummer Dave Hollingshead who, as Carlson explains, the band discovered after reading an article about him and some others being caught robbing graves. That’s pretty metal.

While I’m sure some grind aficionados might complain that certain bands or elements of the genre may have been overlooked or underrepresented, the film delivers a very thorough and entertaining look at the genre. And if you’re still jonesing for a deeper dive into grindcore lore (grindlore?), Brown did mention in the post-film Q&A at the Toronto screening that there was something like 1000 plus hours of footage shot so I’m sure that when the DVD is eventually released, there will be much more to discover.

Slave To The Grind will be going on a bit of a world tour over the next couple of months, Check it out if it’s playing in your city.

Hot Docs Review: Mr SOUL! (2018, Sam Pollard, Melissa Haizlip)

Posted on by Paul in Hot Docs, Movies | Leave a comment

ELLIS HAIZLIP, the Producer of the WNET/PBS weekly television show, "SOUL."  Set interview with Toni Morrison. 1972

Opening up with some archival footage of ads heralding the arrival of colour TV, Mr. SOUL! quickly makes the point that, while everything on TV could now be presented in full glorious colour, the programming itself was still overwhelmingly pretty white. The answer to this: SOUL!

Mr. SOUL! tells the story of the first black arts and culture program to be aired on American television. SOUL! was the brainchild of Ellis Haizlip, his singular vision being to provide a platform for black voices, voices that had not really been given much space on the airwaves up until that time. Originating from New York public broadcaster WNET and airing from 1968 – 1973, SOUL! seemed to consistently challenge itself and its audience from the get-go. Determined not to be just like any other TV show, Haizlip and his team at SOUL! tooled with the formula for awhile before ultimately deciding to just let Haizlip himself host the show.

Airing live much of the time, SOUL! presented many impressive musical performances – everyone from The Lost Poets to Ashford & Simpson to Stevie Wonder to Al Green. Along with many established big name performers, so many musicians were given their first chance on this show, many of them also being acts who wouldn’t have had a chance of being booked on a more mainstream program. One of my favourite stories from the film is Haizlip’s apparent answer upon being asked why he had booked avant-garde jazz saxophonist Rahsaan Roland Kirk on the show: “Because he’s crazy.” It’s true – dude played like three saxes at once. Impressive.

In addition to music, poetry and dance were given equal footing on the show as well as political and cultural discussions – one episode, impressively enough, was just an hour of conversation between James Baldwin and poet Nikki Giovanni filmed in London, England since Baldwin had no interest in returning to America to do an interview. Oh, and also the show featured a 13 year old Arsenio Hall. Was he funny? Who knows – they didn’t really show any footage of him. Still, kinda cool.

Mr. SOUL! presents a loving portrait of a show that was gone all too soon. SOUL! may have been around for only a few years, but in that time, it certainly made an impact.

Screenings:
Sat, May 5, 6:00 PM @ Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema

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