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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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.

 

Amazon’s IMDb.com Bows Original Comedy Series

Amazon-owned movie/TV show database IMDb.com Jan. 16 announced the premiere of “UnMade” (www.imdb.com/unmade), a new original series that follows comedians as they share the plots, inspirations and stories for projects that are not listed on IMDb, because they were never produced … until now.

In each episode – also available on just-launched ad-supported VOD service IMDb Freedive – celebrity comedians remember projects they wrote before they were famous – and, spoiler alert – Hollywood missed out on some winners. These ambitious yet sometimes misguided scripts are given a second chance and brought to life via a team of actors and a professional production crew.

The first three episodes feature Jay Chandrasekhar (Super Troopers), Kristen Schaal (“Last Man on Earth”) and Rainn Wilson (“The Office”) sharing ideas for “unmade” projects. Future guests include Nick Cannon, Bobby Moynihan, Tig Notaro, Paul Rust, Reggie Watts and “Weird Al” Yankovic.

Schaal’s episode takes viewers behind the scenes of her film Avant Garde, which she developed during a college screenwriting class.

The series is produced for IMDb by production company Big Breakfast in Los Angeles.

Viewers can catch new weekly episodes on IMDb’s iOS and Android apps, and the recently launched IMDb Freedive channel, available on IMDb desktop and Fire TV. Fans will also receive regular updates and show content on the IMDb Facebook, YouTube and Twitter channels.

“UnMade provides fans with a comedic new perspective on how the industry works, and why certain projects get made… or don’t,” Steve Bernstein, GM of IMDb Video, said in a statement. “Following the success of IMDb original series like ‘The IMDb Show,’ ‘So Far,’ ‘No Small Parts,’ and ‘Casting Calls,’ we are thrilled to team up with Big Breakfast to offer even more original videos for our customers to dive deeper into the stories that shape the industry.”