Bill & Ted Face the Music

BLU-RAY REVIEW: 

Street Date 11/10/20;
Warner/MGM;
Sci-Fi Comedy;
Box Office $3.4 million;
$28.98 DVD, $35.99 Blu-ray;
Rated ‘PG-13’ for some language.
Stars Keanu Reeves, Alex Winter, Kristen Schaal, Samara Weaving, Brigette Lundy-Paine, Anthony Carrigan, Erinn Hayes, Jayma Mays, Holland Taylor, Kid Cudi, William Sadler, Jillian Bell, Hal Landon Jr., Beck Bennett, Amy Stoch.

The third “Bill & Ted” movie, coming 29 years after the second, turns the lengthy gap between sequels into an asset while bringing fans back into the familiar world of the franchise.

The film is something of homage to and an amalgam of the first two, which saw an emissary from the future, Rufus (played by the late George Carlin, who gets a tribute in the new film), travel back in time 700 years to put young slackers Bill and Ted (Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves) on course to bring about universal harmony with the music of their band, Wyld Stallyns.

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In the first film, Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, Rufus lends them a time machine in the shape of a phone booth to travel into the past to collect historical figures to pass their history report and graduate high school, assuring they can remain together. The second film, Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey, saw the duo the target of a future warlord who despises that society took inspiration from them. The robots he sends into the past to hunt them down succeed in killing them, but Bill and Ted are able to navigate the afterlife with the help of the Grim Reaper (William Sadler) to return to Earth, stop the robots, and win a battle of the bands on their path to superstardom.

As the third film opens, however, Bill and Ted have yet to write the song that will bring about global unity, and continue their desperate efforts to do so. Their lack of success has begun to tear the fabric of reality apart, leading to another emissary from the future, Rufus’ daughter (Kristen Schaal), to bring them a message from the Great Leader (Holland Taylor) chastising them for not fulfilling the prophecy.

Accordingly, Bill and Ted decide to visit their own future selves to try to find the song they were supposed to have written.

Meanwhile, their grown daughters Billie and Thea (Brigette Lundy-Paine and Samara Weaving), who were introduced as babies at the end of Bogus Journey, come up with a plan to go back in time to gather the greatest musicians in history to form the ultimate band to help their dads.

Meanwhile, the Great Leader re-interprets the prophecy of how Bill and Ted influence future society, and after coming to the conclusion they have to die to restore reality, sends a robot back in time to do the deed.

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Even under the direction of Dean Parisot (Galaxy Quest), Face the Music can’t match the energy levels of the first two films. This isn’t that surprising, though, since the film is dealing with the central theme of trying to live up to your potential even if the ability to do so seems to have passed you by. It’s a fun adventure that should elicit and lot of warm nostalgia smiles.

The Blu-ray comes with a handful of extras, led by the film’s 43-minute Comic-Con@Home panel. Hosted by Kevin Smith, whose Jay and Silent Bob characters drew obvious inspiration from Bill and Ted, the panel features several of the stars and key filmmakers participating through Zoom to discuss the making of the film and the origins of the franchise. The fact that the physical San Diego Comic-Con had to be canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic and replaced by an online one may prove to be something of a boon to Blu-ray and DVD bonus features, as the Virtual panels are yielding a slew of neatly packaged videos ready to plop on a disc or YouTube.

The other extras aren’t so extensive, consisting of four short promotional featurettes ranging from 50 to 80 seconds each.

 

‘Bill & Ted Face the Music’ Due on Disc Nov. 10

Warner Bros. Home Entertainment will release Bill & Ted Face the Music on Blu-ray Disc and DVD Nov. 10. The film, which is currently available for premium VOD rental and purchase from MGM and Orion Pictures, will be released via standard digital sellthrough Oct. 20, and standard VOD Nov. 10.

The third film in the “Bill & Ted” franchise, following 1989’s Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure and 1991’s Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey, finds Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves reprising their roles as the time traveling title duo, who are tasked with emissaries from the future with writing the song that will unite humanity for all time.

The film was slated for a wide theatrical release over the summer that was pushed back as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Instead, it was released via PVOD and in a handful of theaters that opened after quarantine restrictions were lifted, earning $3.3 million at the domestic box office.

Directed by Dean Parisot (“Galaxy Quest”) and written by franchise creators Chris Matheson and Ed Solomon, Bill & Ted Face the Music also stars William Sadler, Kristen Schaal, Samara Weaving, Brigette Lundy-Paine, Anthony Carritan, Erinn Hayes, Jayma Mays, Hal Landon Jr., Beck Bennett, Amy Stoch, Jillian Bell and Holland Taylor.

The Blu-ray and DVD will include a “Be Excellent to Each Other” featurette. The Blu-ray will also include the featurettes “A Most Triumphant Duo,” “Death’s Crib” and “Social Piece (Excellence),” and the Bill & Ted Face the Music Comic-Con@Home panel.

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FandangoNow Offers Promo on Preorders of ‘Bill & Ted Face the Music’

Consumers who rent Bill & Ted Face the Music (due Aug. 28) in advance on FandangoNow can get 50% off rentals of more than 100 movies starring big-screen duos like Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter.

The deal includes the pair’s first two epics Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure and Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey. Other films in the offer include Bad Boys for Life, Romy & Michele’s High School Reunion, House Party, Thelma & Louise, Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle, Booksmart, The Blues Brothers, Wayne’s World, Tommy Boy, The Heat, The Sting, Bonnie & Clyde, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Friday, Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back, Midnight Run, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Back to the Future, Keanu and Ted.

Consumers will have 30 days to begin watching the titles after they are rented. For more info on the more than 100 discounted titles in the deal, see FandangoNow’s Movie Duos.

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‘Bill & Ted Face the Music’ VOD Release Moving Up to Aug. 28

Bill & Ted Face the Music will come out on VOD and in select theaters Aug. 28, moving up from the Sept. 1 date announced during Comic-Con@Home.

Bill & Ted star Alex Winter revealed the news on Twitter.

In the Orion Pictures film, the stakes are higher than ever for the time-traveling William  “Bill” S. Preston Esq. (Alex Winter) and Theodore  “Ted” Logan (Keanu Reeves). To fulfill their rock and roll destiny, the now middle-aged best friends set out on a new adventure when a visitor from the future warns them that only their song can save life as we know it. Along the way, they will be helped by their daughters, a new batch of historical figures, and a few music legends to seek the song that will set their world right and bring harmony in the universe.

 

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‘Bill & Ted Face the Music’ Getting Simultaneous VOD and Theatrical Release Sept. 1

Bill & Ted Face the Music, the third installment in the “Bill & Ted” franchise, is heading to VOD Sept. 1 on the same day it hits theaters (that are open).

In the Orion Pictures film, the stakes are higher than ever for the time-traveling William “Bill” S. Preston Esq. (Alex Winter) and Theodore “Ted” Logan (Keanu Reeves). To fulfill their rock and roll destiny, the now middle-aged best friends set out on a new adventure when a visitor from the future warns them that only their song can save life as we know it. Along the way, they will be helped by their daughters, a new batch of historical figures, and a few music legends to seek the song that will set their world right and bring harmony in the universe.

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Bill & Ted Face the Music is directed by Dean Parisot (Galaxy Quest), from a screenplay by Chris Matheson and Ed Solomon (Bill & Ted’s Excellent AdventureBill & Ted’s Bogus Journey).

The news came as Orion released the official poster and trailer during the online Comic-Con@Home.

HBO Max Meets Troubled Times With ‘A World of Calm’ Series

WarnerMedia’s SVOD service HBO Max has ordered the 10-episode “A World of Calm,” a TV experience that combines mesmeric imagery with narration by stars — including Mahershala Ali, Idris Elba, Oscar Isaac, Nicole Kidman, Zoë Kravitz, Lucy Liu, Cillian Murphy and Keanu Reeves.

HBO Max’s first project in the health and wellness space, “A World of Calm” is the result of a collaboration between the makers of Calm, the app for sleep, meditation and relaxation, and Nutopia, the team behind Nat Geo’s series “One Strange Rock.”

“A timely antidote for our modern lives, each half-hour episode takes audiences on an immersive visual journey into another world,” according to the press release.

“Building on Calm’s Sleep Stories — bedtime stories for grown-ups with more than 250 million listens — each relaxing tale is designed to transform how you feel,” the release states. “Transporting the viewer into tranquility through scientifically-engineered narratives, enchanting music and astounding footage, to naturally calm your body and soothe the mind, each story is brought to life by a different iconic voice.”

“With the considerable amount of stress and chaos we are all experiencing at this particularly challenging time, we could all use a bit of guided relaxation and ‘A World of Calm’ is here to help,” Jennifer O’Connell, EVP of non-fiction and kids programming for HBO Max, said in a statement. “With soothing imagery and tranquil narration, this is one HBO Max original that we hope becomes part of your daily routine.”

“We are thrilled to work with such amazing partners as HBO Max and Calm for this new cutting edge endeavor,” Nutopia CEO and founder Jane Root said in a statement. “Although this collaboration has been in the works for many months, this series has been entirely created during quarantine using Nutopia’s worldwide network of award-winning cinematographers and filmmakers. We hope this series of serene stories will bring a sense of much needed calm to audiences.”

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“Calm started life as a meditation app but the brand has evolved far beyond that,” Calm co-founder and co-CEO Michael Acton Smith said in a statement. “We are delighted to bring the magic behind our audio Sleep Stories to the screen for the first time.  These experiences are visual Valium and will help people relax and unwind during these stressful times.”

The series is co-produced by Calm and Nutopia with Root, Nicola Moody, Smith and Chris Advansun serving as executive producers, and Sara Brailsford and Fiona Caldwell as co-executive producers.

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The Hits Keep Coming as Summer Box Office Hopes Fade

Last week was one to forget for exhibitors, eager to re-start their business following months of lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic. High-profile studio titles Mulan (Disney) and Tenet (Warner Bros.) were further delayed into August following renewed fears about COVID-19 infection spikes in California, Arizona, Texas and Florida, among other areas.

Then came news on June 26 that the long-delayed third installment in MGM’s Orion Pictures’ “Bill & Ted” sci-fi adult comedy franchise Bill & Ted Face the Music, starring Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter in their original roles, was being pushed back to Aug. 28 from Aug. 21 — the new date of the Mulan reschedule. Bill & Ted, about two metalhead slacker friends who travel through time, had been originally slated for Aug. 14. The original Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure launched in 1989, followed by Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey in 1991 — both starring Reeves and Winter — and grossing $78 million ($149 million today) collectively in theaters.

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Over the weekend, California Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered bars closed again in Los Angeles and six other counties.

“This does not bode well for film and TV production, movie theaters, the restart of sports, including college athletics and theme parks,” Rich Greenfield with LightShed Partners, tweeted June 28.

Wedbush Securities media analyst Michael Pachter contends the box office won’t return to normal even as major chains such as AMC Theatres, Regal Cinemas and Cinemark, re-open screens next month.

“People may be eager to visit the theaters once they feel safe doing so, but we think it is unlikely crowds will return to any semblance of normal before a vaccine is widely distributed, particularly in urban and suburban markets,” Pachter wrote in a note.

Regardless, MGM has a lot riding on the movie, having just secured all remaining international territories (excluding China) for the movie from Endeavor Content. MGM had previously secured distribution in key international territories, including Germany, Greece, Latin America and the Middle East, among others. As part of the June 25 announced agreement, MGM will also distribute Face The Music throughout France, Italy, Spain, Japan, South Korea, Scandinavia, Taiwan, Thailand, Hong Kong, Hungary, Turkey, Benelux, Bulgaria, Singapore and Romania.

“[The movie] is the perfect dose of fun and nostalgia and universally relatable in its message to ‘be excellent to each other,'” Chris Ottinger, who heads MGM’s international distribution and acquisitions division, said in a statement.

Toy Story 4

BLU-RAY REVIEW: 

Street 10/8/19;
Disney;
Animated;
Box Office $433.06 million;
$39.99 Blu-ray/DVD, $44.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘G.’
Voices of Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Annie Potts, Tony Hale, Jordan Peele, Keegan-Michael Key, Keanu Reeves, Ally Maki, Joan Cusack, Bonnie Hunt, Kristen Schaal, Wallace Shawn, John Ratzenberger, Blake Clark, June Squibb, Carl Weathers, Jeff Garlin.

While the prospect of a fourth “Toy Story” movie was exciting news for fans of the franchise, there were some questions about whether the adventures of Woody, Buzz and the gang might have run their course. After all, the third movie from 2010 was an emotional rollercoaster that seemed to provide a decent, if bittersweet, sense of closure for the characters.

Of course, the question about what stories were left to tell had already been answered long before the fourth movie was announced, not only through three short films, but also two half-hour television specials. So, yeah, there’s more than enough material to mine.

There would still be the challenge of making any new film feel like an event worthy of the franchise. The movies should at least be somewhat transformational, redefining the status quo of the characters beyond what can be accomplished in a short film.

Well, the team at Pixar Animation Studios certainly achieved that goal, and then some. Toy Story 4 isn’t the best film in the franchise, but it might be the most cathartic. Where the previous film was a bit of a gut punch, this one offers more of a natural progression for the characters.

After a flashback that shows how Woody’s love interest, Bo Peep (Annie Potts) was given away (mentioned in Toy Story 3), we check in to see how the toys are doing with their new owner, Bonnie. While she exhibits a rich imagination, she tends to leave Woody (Tom Hanks) sidelined, leaving him to wonder what his place in her life is.

Bonnie then creates a new toy, named Forky (Tony Hale), out of trash at school, and when he would rather return to the garbage than play with Bonnie, Woody assigns himself the task of educating the new toy and making sure he’s available for her. Woody’s task gets more complicated when Forky manages to jump out of the RV on a family road trip. In retrieving him, Woody comes across an antique shop and reunites with Bo. But Forky is captured by a doll at the shop who wants to trade him for Woody’s pull-string voice box to replace her own defective one, hoping the fix will help entice a kid to want to play with her.

Bo, on the other hand, presents another option for life as a toy: roaming free, with no owner, never worrying about being played with or not and determining her own fate. Meanwhile, Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) sets out on a mission to find Woody, bolstered by a hilarious running gag of him activating his own voice feature so he can get advice from his “inner voice.”

So, yes, the movie does return to the “recover a lost character” motif that has been a staple of the franchise (and, indeed, most Pixar films), putting a few new spins on the formula along the way. The antique shop and a nearby carnival are wonderful settings for toy-level adventures with inventive new characters, such as Canadian motorcycle-jumping daredevil Duke Caboom (Keanu Reeves), and a pair of game-prize plushes voiced by Key & Peele.

The only area of concern, really, is that each passing movie runs the risk of potentially piercing the suspension of disbelief about the toys being alive, which some of the characters actually joke about in this one. One need to simply look no further to the living vehicles of the world of “Cars” to see how much such questions can distract, and detract, from the narrative.

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The “Toy Story” movies have all been visual marvels, and the fourth one is no exception, advancing the state of CGI to render fantastic textures and details on the toys and their environments. The carnival offers a great excuse for bright colors and warm lights, while the antique shop provides a trove of subtle references.

The Blu-ray is loaded with a lot of great behind-the-scenes material, including an insightful feature-length commentary track by director Josh Cooley and producer Mark Nielsen in which they discuss all sorts of challenges to crafting a fourth “Toy Story” film.

Some of the more pivotal sequences get their own callout in the form of “Anatomy of a Scene” videos in which the filmmakers discuss and joke about making them. The disc includes a nine-and-a-half-minute look at the playground scene, while a seven-minute deconstruction of the prologue serves as a digital exclusive.

The disc also includes 28 minutes of deleted scenes, still in storyboard form, that show some of the unused concepts for the film, including an unused ending that would have pretty much negated the film’s message of finding your own place in the world.

The digital version of the film includes an additional seven-minute alternate opening sequence depicting Bonnie’s playtime fantasy using the toys.

The various featurettes included offer interesting glimpses of the production with the usual interviews with cast members and filmmakers, but often show them interacting in ways not typically presented in such videos.

There is a six-minute “Bo Rebooted” video about how Bo’s character was expanded into a major role for the film. Another, three-and-a-half-minute piece, spotlights the relationship between Woody and Buzz.

The new characters are shown off in a series of “Toy Box” videos that run 13 minutes, while an additional six-minute featurette focuses on new castmember Ally Maki and her pint-sized character.

One of the more nostalgia-infused featurettes is a five-and-a-half-minute “Toy Stories” piece in which several of the cast and crew recall the toys they played with as children.

Among some of the more random video bits are a few minutes of animation showing off the carnival and the antique shop roof from the toys’ perspectives, plus a series of promotional videos including character vignettes and trailers from around the world.

Some digital retailers, such as Vudu, also offer a two-and-a-half-minute “Toy Story Rewind” video in which the cast and crew reflect on the previous movies.

 

Lionsgate’s ‘John Wick: Chapter 3’ Sells More Than 3 Million Units on Disc, EST and VOD

Lionsgate’s John Wick: Chapter 3 — Parabellum, which debuted on digital Aug. 23 and on disc Sept. 10, has sold more than 3 million units on disc, EST and VOD, according to the studio.

The title is positioned to become Lionsgate’s highest-grossing home entertainment title in five years, since the release of The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 in 2014, according to the studio.

The title is the studio’s biggest-selling EST title ever, passing John Wick: Chapter 2 in its first three days of EST release.

The release overindexed in the home entertainment market with sales comparable to a $250 million-plus domestic box office film, according to the studio. The film made $171 million in U.S. theaters.

“The popularity of the John Wick franchise continues to surge with strong growth across packaged media, electronic sellthrough and video-on-demand platforms,” said Lionsgate president of worldwide home entertainment Ron Schwartz in a statement. “The success of John Wick: Chapter 3 is a testament to the film’s incredible cast, led by Keanu Reeves, and amazing creative team, the efforts of our sales and marketing executives, and the vibrancy of the home entertainment business across all of its platforms.”

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In the third installment of the action franchise, super-assassin John Wick (Reeves) returns with a $14 million price tag on his head and an army of bounty-hunting killers on his trail.

John Wick: Chapter 4 will be released in theaters nationwide on May 21, 2021.

A Third Dimension of John Wick

For John Wick: Chapter 3 — Parabellum, director Chad Stahelski (John Wick, John Wick: Chapter 2) confronted the “curse” of doing a sequel.

“You try to do something that’s very original, and by the very nature of doing a sequel, it can’t be as original as the original, so you have a couple of choices,” he said in a featurette for the home video release. “You can blow more… up and have bigger spaceships and bigger monsters — or you expand. That’s what we tried to do with John Wick — just get more in depth to who he is, what his world entails and show that through his personal journey.”

“It’s about John’s journey and his quest to live to remember his wife Helen,” added Keanu Reeves, who stars as master assassin John Wick.

John Wick: Chapter 3 — Parabellum is available now on digital and 4K Ultra HD combo pack (plus Blu-ray and digital), Blu-ray combo pack (plus DVD and digital), DVD, and on demand from Lionsgate.

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Featurettes explore the mythology and action of the “John Wick” universe; the planning that went into the horse chase sequence and “dog-fu” fight sequences; and the editing.

Chapter 3 features previous franchise stars Laurence Fishburne, Ian McShane and Lance Reddick, but it also expands with new faces, including Halle Berry and Anjelica Huston.

Halle Berry in Parabellum

In the film, Wick has a $14 million price tag on his head after killing a member of the High Table, the shadowy international assassins’ guild. With an army of the world’s most ruthless hit men and women on his trail, John must find a way to survive. He seeks out a figure from his past to help him on his journey, the mysterious “Director” (Huston), at an academy in a ballet theater. “It’s basically a school for young assassins,” Huston explained in the extras. The threequel also expands geographically, taking the action to a foreign outpost of the Continental hotel chain in Casablanca. There, Wick meets up with Sofia (Berry), another accomplished assassin who uses her pet dogs to take out enemies. Berry spent long hours building a relationship with her Belgian Malinois companions.

“I could command them like the trainers,” she said in the disc featurette about the canine training.

Parabellum also expands the action.

“It really was one of the hardest physical stories that I’ve had to tell because there is a lot more action in Parabellum than in the other two films,” Reeves said in the extras.

“He’s fearless,” added Berry, who also had to commit to months of physical training.

“Some people say they want to do ‘John Wick’ training — and then it starts,” Reeves noted in the extras. “Halle said, ‘Thank you, sir. Can I please have some more?’”

“If you hurt, so what?” added Berry.

On the Road With John Wick

Aug. 31 through the first half of September, Lionsgate mounted a “John Wick Road Trip,” displaying the vehicles used by the on-the-run hitman in the series, including the Ford Mustang from the first two movies and a Zero DSR motorcycle from John Wick: Chapter 3 — Parabellum.

The motorcycle sequence was one of the most elaborate in the film.

“They designed this motorcycle sequence that involved live action in the moment and then working in a computer-generated space,” Reeves said in the extras.

The tour also featured a traveling museum of series memorabilia.

The exhibit traveled across the Midwest and East Coast to visit select Best Buy Stores, NASCAR events, and a Green Bay Packers football game. Fans had the opportunity to take a photo with the Mustang, escape an army of assassins with a “John Wick” motorcycle green screen and check out real props from the films.

Killer Packaging

Lionsgate designed some killer exclusive packaging for top retailers.

Best Buy exclusive steelbook:

Walmart packaging with black coin:

Target exclusive steelbook: