Bill And Ted Face The Music (2020)

Yeah I love this film series, I love it so much I’ve even read the comics (I didn’t buy them, I’m not mad). I get they’re not the best films in the world, and I will still argue they didn’t deserve a passing grade for their history presentation (they didn’t do anything, they got the historical figures to do all the work). But there’s just something so damn wholesome about the whole thing. The characters are dedicated to each other, and to their partners. Seriously, across three movies they are never tempted to be led astray in their relationships, it’s so comforting.

So does that continue now? In a world where they are trying to make dark and gritty superman movies, is there really space for a Bill And Ted movie? Or will it just seem out of place, a relic of a bygone age that the modern cynical world will just laugh at?

Of course it works. Of course there’s still space for lightness and stupidity, in fact in times like this you could argue it’s essential. We need this movie. We need a movie devoid of cynicism, that we can just watch and enjoy ourselves for the duration of. In my review of Brahms: The Boy 2 (worst title ever btw) I mentioned that it seemed like nobody involved gave a shit, that’s definitely not the case here. I’m not saying this is definitely the case, but it seems like this role is the one that Keanu Reeves has some of the most love for. Despite The Matrix, John Wick, etc, this is the most comfortable you see him, it’s like he’s having the time of his life. Alex Winter, too, is relishing this role. The way the two perform it’s like they’ve lived these characters constantly since the last film. It doesn’t feel like they’re performing, it feels like they are.

The supporting cast is great too. I still can’t tell the difference between Samara Weaving and Margot Robbie, but that’s more my fault than theirs. There are two great surprise performers though.

One, I suspected would be the case from the trailer. Brigette Lundy-Paine, NAILS their part as Ted’s daughter, completely. I don’t know how much research they did into the part, but they got the mannerisms down 100%. You completely buy them as related and I really want to see them do more stuff. One that did surprise me, was Anthony Carrigan as a killer robot sent from the future. I’d only seen him before as Victor Zsasz in the Gotham TV series, so when I saw he was playing a robot assassin in this film I thought I knew what to expect. I won’t spoil his character here, but trust me you have to see it as it provides some of the funniest moments in the film.

Now onto the negatives: it doesn’t do quite as much with the general concept as it could. One of the highlights of the first one was seeing them use time travel to their advantage (when it comes to hiding keys etc). You don’t get any of that smartness in here which is a shame. Also, there’s an extended musician performance which I feel will really date this movie in a few years time.

So in summary, please see this, it’s wonderful and you’ll enjoy it.

Palm Springs (2020)

I went into this pretty blind. I knew it existed, I knew Andy Samberg was in it, and I knew the poster. The first minute or so were pretty much as I expected: he wakes up and has sex (attempts to) with his partner the morning of a wedding.

Then it gets weird. He seems a little too bored, a little too like he knows exactly what is going to happen at all times. There’s a reason for that, he’s in a Groundhog Day situation and has lived this day multiple times. The good thing about this is the film drops just enough hints that if you’re paying attention you can figure it out before it’s revealed. Before the reveal it is kind of a standard romcom, and then he gets shot by someone who hates him because he caused him to go through the loop too.

So yeah, the opening section sets in stone the notion that this is not a typical romcom. It has far more jokes about suicide than the typical romcom (well, the typical romcom not written by me, at least). It also has a much darker undertone than it appears. He brings up how he behaves knowing nothing has consequences, bringing up the fact that it doesn’t matter if other people don’t remember, you do. So if you do something awful, you will be haunted by it. As he says

“Being a source of terror is not fun and it’s not fulfilling, I know from experience”

That one line gives us so much potential backstory to that character. It hints that he went through a stage where he killed people, where he viciously tortured those who annoyed him (and considering he knows his girlfriend is cheating on him, that gives us some VERY dark possibilities). I love that it hints at that backstory, but never shows us. It gives us the impression that the characters have lives outside of this film, these characters and this world seem real (except the random dinosaurs).

This film does so much right, the performances are all spot on, and overloaded with unsaid character motivations and beliefs. Everybody is on top form, it doesn’t have as many comedian cameos as you think it would. Truth be told I only remember recognising three of the cast members, but even the “unknowns” do their job incredibly well, all meshing together to form a cohesive unit. I firmly believe this may be one of the best ensemble casts I’ve seen in a long time, not a single weak link.

Now the downsides: visually it doesn’t really do much. There is some impressive stunt work in it, but the location itself never feels as paradisiacal as you feel it could. I don’t know whether it’s set design, or directing, but the location itself doesn’t “pop” as much as you feel it should. Also I feel the music could be better, I can’t remember a single song from this film, and considering it’s a summer-based horror-comedy that’s a disappointment. Also some of the montages aren’t quite fun enough. There are some moments where they’re genuinely sweet and funny, but then there are others where they just feel kind of standard. Overall though, well worth a watch. If you have a hulu account (or have a friend with one), it’s on there so you should definitely check it out on there.

The Lovebirds (2020)

Earlier this year I reviewed Fantasy Island, and in that review I said “the”,which was probably the only word I used in the review which wasn’t insulting it. It’s time to admit there was something good from that film, before it I had the trailer for this. If it wasn’t for that I wouldn’t know about it, which would be a shame.

I mean, it’s also a shame that this film got put on netflix, it would have been nice to see this in the cinema (and I get the feeling I’ll be saying that A LOT this year), as I feel it deserves that.

It’s not the best film in the world, but it is pretty solid with nothing to truly hate about it. The characters are well-written and all their decisions make sense, even when they are stupid decisions they have a certain logic to them.

The core of this film is the central relationship between Kumail Nanjiani and Issa Rae (while we’re on the subject; how refreshing is it to see a film like this being lead by two non-white performers and not have that being their defining character trait?). This film does the smartest thing I’ve seen in a while in how it shows their relationship, it shows them first meeting and awkwardly flirting, and then cuts to years later when the relationship is in turmoil. The fact we see them happy means that we are invested in their relationship as we know what they can be together, otherwise we’d just be sitting there screaming “FFS just end it”, but because we know how happy they can be, we want them to work it out, and you need that. Trust me, you do need that, because the break-up scenes hit HARD. Much much harder than you’d expect a film like this to. You genuinely feel like both characters are a single comment away from a complete breakdown. Whether it’s criticising their work on documentaries “documentaries are reality shows that nobody watches”, or their personality types. When they argue, they aim low, and it’s painful to see (in a good way).

Now onto the actual story, about them attempting to uncover the truth behind a stranger getting in their car (who they think is a cop) and running someone over, repeatedly, to incredibly uncomfortable silence. Since it’s in their car, and they get found by two hipsters (one of whom takes a photo of the body, called it) who call the police “I’d like to report a murder or whatever”. They assume they’re going to be blamed for the murder, so run away and try to solve it themselves, all the while arguing. It’s not exactly the most original plot, but it is a lot of fun to watch. It does become original at the end though where the police say that they were never suspects, the original murder was caught on camera (obviously), and they just wanted to speak to them as they were witnesses. I like when films twist the common tropes like that, it was also done well in Keanu where the main characters were arrested because despite being innocent of murder, they still broke a lot of laws trying to clear their name.

So should you see this? Well it’s on netflix so you really should. The director’s previous film was The Big Sick, and whilst it’s nowhere near as good as that, it is still worth a watch.

My Spy (2020)

I mentioned in my review of Stuber last year my hope that this would be the film that causes Batista to go from “oh yeah, that guy” to “THE guy”. Sadly that’s not the case. This film is predictable, the villains are SEVERELY underdeveloped, and a lot of the actions of the characters don’t make any sense if you think about it for more than a minute. It’s also REALLY fun and well worth a watch.

Yeah it has some flaws, but I seriously doubt you’ll regret watching it. It’s funny, sweet, and has enough unique parts to stand out. It sets its tone very early on with a hostage situation that turns into laugh out loud comedy, and a reference to Iron Man 2 (although if the MCU exists in this universe, who played Drax?), and then plays a car chase to foreign language covers of I Will Survive and My Heart Will Go On. It’s a cheap laugh, but it’s a laugh nonetheless. It’s also something you don’t really expect in this film, a bit like the high number of Notting Hill references compared to most comedy action films.

Now when I say “things that don’t make sense” they’re mainly character-based mistakes rather than impossibilities. For example he stands in front of a class and admits he’s a spy. Number one on the “list of things needed to be a good spy” would be “never mention you’re a spy” yet he never suffers any backlash from this. (Number two on the list, by the way, is “a preference for cheese sandwiches over ham”, I don’t know why that’s important, it just is.) It’s strange as he suffers for other things he do which aren’t spy-like, but not for this. It’s a very sweet moment, and incredibly funny, but like I said it doesn’t make that much sense. I mean, it is worth it for his description of his time in the service when he mentions killing people: “they were all terrorists, human traffickers, or really annoying”

One thing is made abundantly clear in this film: Batista is f*cking huge. You don’t normally notice it because he’s paired up against similarly muscled men. But when you see him standing against normal people, you realise he’s a massive human being. Like, scarily large.

So in summary I think you do need to see this. It’s not like “omg that was so smart and brilliant” but near the end they think a helicopters about to explode so she begs to do a slow cool-guy walk away from it. it doesn’t blow up so he throws a grenade at it so she can do it. How can you not love a film like that?

An American Pickle (2020)

I should have liked this. It’s a funny idea, and it’s something quirky and strange, I like strange. It just didn’t land with me, though. I went in not knowing what the story is, I came out and still didn’t really know, it goes through multiple ideas so quickly that it never really has an identity.

Essentially it’s about a guy who falls into a pickle vat and ends up being uncovered still alive 100 years later and you think the film is going to be about him adjusting to a modern age. Nope. He meets his great grandson who he hopes is a success, and you think it may be a family based drama about the two connecting, nope, although for the brief moment where it is that, it is superb. He finds a billboard in the graveyard where his family is buried and vows to get enough money to take it down. That storyline lasts about 20 minutes. He gets into an argument with his relative and starts selling pickles out of spite, becoming internet famous among hipsters. That is part of the previous story and is how he gets the money, so also doesn’t last that long. He goes on twitter and tweets offensive shit, which people love. He then slightly suggests running for President before offending Christians and having everybody hates him. That lasts about 5 minutes. He is about to get deported so makes up with his relative and the two try to smuggle him into Canada. That lasts about 10 minutes. He swaps places with his relative (they’re both played by Seth Rogan), so his great grandson gets deported to a place he doesn’t know. That storyline takes about 20 minutes, then the film ends.

It was first showcased on HBO’s streaming service, and it’s definitely a streaming movie. I would probably be more charitable towards it if I watched it online instead of cinema. As it is I just wish it was a TV show instead. If it was then each of those storylines I mentioned would have time to be fleshed out and breathe, they’d be able to develop into actual stories instead of just a collection of scenes.

It’s a shame, as Seth Rogen is great in it. Even when they are supposed to look exactly the same you can tell which one you’re looking at due to the way they carry themselves. It’s a testament to his talent that despite some characters being confused as to who is who, the audience never is. I would compliment the other actors, but most of them turn up, do a few scenes then are never heard from again as their story is dropped. So in summary, I’m not sure whether to recommend this. It had some good moments, but they were too fleeting to offer the film a full recommendation I’m afraid.

Fisherman’s Friends (2019)

This is not the greatest film I’ve seen, but it’s enjoyable. It’s the cinematic equivalent of a piece of toast (I compare films to food way more than most people do, I should look into that). By that, I mean that no matter how perfectly it does what it needs to, it will never be your favourite. It sticks to a formula, and as such is kind of restrained by that. You can guess almost every single plot point in this film from the opening 10 minutes. It won’t surprise you at all. But it doesn’t really need to, this is not a film to analyse and pore over, it’s a film to sit and distract yourself, and it does that well. The dialogue is razor sharp, the characters are loveable (and fully fleshed out, even the background ones have minor details to them which help you know them), and it will make you smile. The whole thing is just massively endearing and charming and, I don’t know, warm I guess is the word I’m looking for. You know how certain films have colours attached to them? I’d say this one is a warm sea blue. It’s just comforting and lovely, the kind of film the whole family gathers and watches on Christmas Day, in that post-dinner haze where you’re all too exhausted to move, and someone inevitably falls asleep in the sofa with their Christmas hat still on. It’s incredibly BBC, and I mean that as positive and a negative.

So yeah don’t go out of your way to watch this, but if (actually, when) it comes on iPlayer, watch it immediately.

The above made complete sense in relation to this film. Which is weird, as with the exception of 3 words, it was lifted word for word from an earlier review. That’s both the best and worst thing about about this film. It’s nice to have something familiar, even if it is something new. It’s comforting to not have to sit there wondering exactly what’s going to happen and to just be able to lose yourself in the dialogue and the characters. It’s nice to have something you can have on in the background and talk to people during. It’s good to have something you expect, and have it meet every expectation. But yeah it can be a bit annoying to have that. It can be slightly frustrating to feel you’ve already seen everything in it. I think my feelings would be a lot less forgiving if I had paid for this, I feel that about quite a few films, but this one in particular was received more warmly because it was free. I mean, it is enjoyable, incredibly so, it just never feels like it does more than exist. It doesn’t grab you. It does have James Purefoy looking like a West Country Wolverine though, so it gets a few points for that.